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The Home Medical 

The Home Medical 


Kenelm Winslow, B.A.S., M.D. 

Formerly Assistant Professor Comparative Therapeutics, Har- 
vard University ; Late Surgeon to the Newton Hospital ; 
Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, etc. 

With the Cooperation of Many Medical 
Advising Editors and Special Contributors 


First Aid :: Family Medicines :: Nose, Throat, Lungs, 
Eye, and Ear :: Stomach and Bowels :: Tumors and 
Skin Diseases :: Rheumatism :: Germ Diseases 
Nervous Diseases :: Insanity :: Sexual Hygiene 
Woman and Child :: Heart, Blood, and Diges- 
tion :: Personal Hygiene :: Indoor Exercise 
Diet and Conduct for Long Life :: Prac- 
tical Kitchen Science :: Nervousness 
and Outdoor Life : : Nurse and Pa- 
tient :: Camping Comfort :: Sani- 
tation of the House Jiold :: Pure 
Water Supply :: Pure Food 
Stable and Kennel 

New York 

The Review of Reviews Company 


Medical Advising Editors 

Managing Editor 
Albert Warren Ferris, A.M., M.D. 

Former Assistant in Neurology, Columbia University ; Former Chairman, Section on 

Neurology and Psychiatry, New York Academy of Medicine ; Assistant in 

Medicine, University ayid Bellevue Hospital Medical College ; 

Medical Editor, New International Encyclopedia. 

Nervous Diseases 
Charles E. Atwood, M.D. 

Assistant in Neurology, Columbia University ; Former Physician, Utica State Hospital 
and Bloom ingdale Hospital for Insane Patients ; Former Clinical Assist- 
ant to Sir William Gowers, National Hospital, Lo?idon. 

Russell Bellamy, M.D. 

Assistant in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cornell University Medical College Dispensary; 

Captain and Assistant Surgeon {in charge), Squadron A, New York 

Cavalry ; Assistant in Surgery, New York Polyclinic. 

Germ Diseases 
Hermann Michael Biggs, M.D. 

General Medical Officer and Director of Bacteriological Laboratories, New York City 

Department of Health; Professor of Clinical Medicine in University and 

Bellevue Hospital Medical College ; Visiting Physician to Bellevue, 

St. Vincent's, Willard Parker, and Riverside Hospitals. 

The Eye and Ear 
J. Herbert Claiborne, M.D. 

Clinical Instructor in Ophthalmology, Cornell University Medical College; Former Ad- 
junct Professor of Ophthalmology, New York Polyclinic; Former Instructor in Ophthal- 
y in Columbia University; Surgeon, New Amsterdam Eye and Ear Hospital. 

Thomas Darlington, M.D. 

mmi 'oner of New York City; Former President Medical Board, New York 

Hospital; Consulting Physician, French Hospital; Attending Physician, 
'ilia's Riverside Hospital, Yonkers; Surgeon to New Croton Aqueduct 
and other Public Works, to Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Com- 
pany of Arizona, and Ai-izona and Southeastern Railroad 
Hospital; Author of Medical and Climatological Works. 

Austin Flint, Jr., M.D. 

Obstetric* and Clinical Gynecology, New York University and Bellevue Hos- 
V Visiting Physician, Bellevue Hospital; Consulting Obstetri- 
Matcmity Hospital; Attending Physician, Hospital for Rup- 
' nankattan Maternity and Emergency Hospitals. 

Heart and Blood 
John Bessner Huber, A.M., M.D. 

A ssistant in Medicine, University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College; Visiting Phy- 
sician to St. Joseph's Home for Consumptives; AutJior of "Consumption: Its 
Relation to Man and His Civilization; Its Prevention and Cure." 

Skin Diseases 
James C. Johnston, A.B., M.D. 

Instructor in Pathology and Chief of Clinic, Department of Dermatology, Cornell Uni- 
versity Medical College. 

Diseases of Children 
Charles Gilmore Kerley, M.D. 

Professor of Pediatrics, New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital; A ttending 

Physician, New York Infa7it Asylum, Children's Department of Sydenham Hospital, 

and Babies' Hospital, N. Y.; Consulting Physician, Home for Crippled Children. 

Bites and Stings 
George Gibier Rambaud, M.D. 

President, New York Pasteur Institute. 

Alonzo D. Rockwell, A.M., M.D. 

Former Professor Electro-Therapeutics and Neurology at Neiv York Post-Graduate 

Medical School; Neurologist and Electro-Therapeutist to the Flushing Hospital; 

Former Electro-Therapeutist to the Woman's Hospital in the State of 

New York; Author of Works on Medical and Surgical Uses 

of Electricity, Nervous Exhaustio7i {Neurasthenia), etc. 

E. Ellsworth Smith, M.D. 

Pathologist, St. John s Hospital, Yonkers; Somerset Hospital, Somerville, N. J.; Trinity 

Hospital, St. Bartholomew's Clinic, and the New York 

West Side German Dispensary . 

Samuel Wood Thurber, M.D. 

Chief of Clinic and Instructor in Laryngology, Columbia University; Laryngologist to 
the Orphan' s Home and Hospital. 

Care of Infants 
Herbert B. Wilcox, M.D. 

Assistant in Diseases of Children, Columbia University. 

Special Contributors 

Food Adulteration 
S. Josephine Baker, M.D. 

Medical Inspector, New York City Department of Health. 

Pure Water Supply 
William Paul Gerhard, C.E. 

Consulting Engineer for Sanitary Works; Member of American Public Health Associa- 
tion ; Member, American Society Mechanical Engineers; Corresponding Member 
of American Institute of Architects, etc.; Author of '" House Drainage" etc. 

Care of Food 
Janet McKenzie Hill 

Editor, Boston Cooking School Magazine* 

Nerves and Outdoor Life 
S. Weir Mitchell, M.D., LL.D. 

LL.D. {Harvard, Edinburgh, Princeton); Former President, Philadelphia College of 
Physicians; Member, National Academy of Sciences, Association of American Physi- 
cians, etc.; Author of essays : "Injuries to Nerves?' " Doctor and Patient," "Fat 
and Blood" etc.; of scientific works: "Researches Upon the Venom of the 
Rattlesnake," etc.; of novels: "Hugh Wynne," "Characteristics" 
"Constance Trescott," "The Adventures of Francois" etc. 

George M. Price, M.D. 

Former Medical Sanitary Inspector, Department of Health, New York City; Inspector, 

New York Sanitary Aid Society of the 10th Ward, 1883; Manager, Model 

Tenement-houses of the New York Te7iement- house Building Co., 1888; 

Inspector, New York State Tenement-house Commission, 18Q5; Author 

of " Tenement-house Inspection," "Handbook on Sanitation" etc. 

Indoor Exercise 
Dudley Allen Sargent, M.D. 

Director of Hemenway Gymnasium, Harvard University; Former President, American 
Physical Culture Society; Director, Normal School of Physical Training, Cam- 
bridge, Mass.; President, American Association for Promotion of 
Physical Education; Author of "Universal Test for 
Strength" "Health, Strength and Power ," etc. 

Long Life 
Sir Henry Thompson, Bart., F.R.C.S., M.B. (Lond.) 

•: Ea traordinary to His Majesty the King of the Belgians; Consulting Surgeon 
to University College Hospital, London; Emeritus Professor of Clin- 
ical Surgery to University College, London, etc. 

Camp Comfort 
Stewart Edward White 

Author of" The Forest," " The Mountains," " The Silent Places " 
" The Blazed Trail" etc. 



The essays of Dr. Weir Mitchell in this volume have a special 
significance that is both medical and literary. In addition to his 
scientific research as exhibited in many medical essays and mono- 
graphs, and his long practice as a neurologist, which developed 
the " Rest Treatment" principle into a prominent and successful 
branch of the healing art, Dr. Mitchell has found time to employ 

tnias for pure literature, particularly in " Hugh Wynne" and 
similar novels, remarkable among historical romances for their 
keen penetration into human character. So, through the remarks 
on 4l Nervousness," " Wear and Tear," and the rest which follow, 

:ader discerns not only the certainty of the scientist and the 
insight of the physician, but also the confident expression of the 
iter of Letters. 


The Home Medical 

Volume VI 



(Harvard, Edinburgh, Princeton) 

Former President Philadelphia College of Physicians ; Member Na- 
tional Academy of Sciences, Association of American Physicians, etc. 
A uthor of essays : ' ■ Injuries to Nerves, " ' ' Doctor and Patient, ' ' 
il Fat and Blood," etc.; of scientific works: "Researches 
Upon the Venom of the Rattlesnake," etc.; of novels : 
"Hugh Wynne," "Characteristics" "Constance 
Trescott, " " The Adventures of Frangois, ' ' etc. 



Author of " The Forest," " The M^S^^HQQNt^t 
The Blaz^fT Trail," etc. 

The Review of Reviews Uompany 

Copyright, 1907, by 
The Review of Reviews Company 





I. Nervousness and Its Influence on 

Character 17 

Friendly Advice — Forms of Nervousness 
— Shocks — Results of Prolonged Strain — 
Effects of Emotion — Collapse — Rest, Food 
and Air Needed — Tears the Seat of Trou- 
ble — The Hour for Absolute Trust — Gid- 
diness — Mind Cure — Beware of Mesmer- 
ism — Women More Nervous than Men — 
The Choice of Careers — Physical Train- 
ing of Girls — Ideal Mothers — The Higher 

II. Convalescence 49 

The Return to Health — The Doctor's 
Sense of Sympathy — Remaking of Tis- 
sues — The Bankruptcy of Disease — Valu- 
able Side of Convalescence — Sensatory 
Acuteness — New Keenness of Perception 
— Intellectual Clearness — The Atmosphere 
of Books — Hideous Literary Realism — 
Physicians as Heroes — Interesting Medi- 
cal Biographies — The Woman Doctor in 




Its Joys and Advantages — Notable Cures 
— Manifold Opportunities — The Pleasures 
of Tent Life — Out-door Life an Insurance 
against Colds — Care, Fret and Worry Dis- 
appear — Worthy Thoughts Inspired — 
What to Read — Photography and Botany 
— Word Sketches and How to Make Them 
— A Mental Cargo of Delicious Memories 
— The Delightful Tricks of Nature. 


I. Wear and Tear 91 

Wasting the Capital of Power — Demand 

for Mechanical Labor — Overtaxing the 
Organs of Thought — Death Statistics of 
Large Cities — Climatic Conditions — City- 
Bred Women as Mothers — Evils in the 
Schools — Young Girls Overtaxed — Re- 
sponsibilities of Teachers — Ignorance of 
Health Laws — Cerebral Exhaustion in 
Men — Nervous Breakdown — Precautions 

II. Nurse and Patient 146 

The Tyranny of the Sick — Relatives not 
Good Caretakers — Calm, Steady Disci- 




pline Needed — Keep Fuss out of the Sick 
Room — Selfishness of Chronic Invalids 
— How Nurses Contract Diseases — Gener- 
ous Living and Fresh Air for the Watcher 
— Sad Effects of Wasting Maladies — In- 
sanity in the Home — Ordeals Undergone 
by Members of the Family — The Question 
of Isolation. 

III. Camp Cure ....... 167 

Work and Play in America — Spring De- 
pression — Prehistoric and Modern Man — 
The Surest Remedy — The Joys of Tent 
Life — The Mindless Work of the Camp — 
Throat and Lung Diseases Cured — Out- 
door Life the Best Alterative for Stomach 
Troubles — The Worries and Cares of Life 
Fly Quickly Away — Where to Go — Pic- 
turesque Delights. 


I. Camping Comfort ix the North 

Woods 195 

What to Wear — Do Not Carry a Coat — 
A Sweater Better in Every Way — Other 
Articles Needed — Take a Small Shelter 
Tent — Implements and Firearms — Cook- 




ing Utensils — Fishing Tackle — How to 
Cope with Insects— An Effective Smudge 
— The Pack — Endurance a Matter of Ex- 
perience — The Secret of Woods Walking 
— Suggestions for Outfits. 

II. Camping Comfort in the Western 

Mountains 214 

Changing Altitudes Require Special 
Equipment — Riding and Pack Saddles — 
Padding for the Horses' Backs — The 
Repair Kit — Horseshoeing and Cobbling 
Outfit — The Virtues of Hobnailed Boots 
— Buckskin Gloves a Necessity — The Grub 
Supply — Special Implements — Personal 

III. Camp Cookery .... ., . 220 

Advantages of Being a Cook — The Provi- 
sion Bag — The Camp Stove — Take Some 
"Gold Dust"— How to Build a Fire 
— Cakes without Eggs, Butter or Milk — 
A Unique Pudding — Hanging the Kettle 
— Cooking Venison — The Dutch Oven — 
Unleavened Bread — Flapjacks — A Log 
Cabin in the Mountains. 


Part I 







We beg to tender grateful acknowledgment to 
author and publisher for the use, in Part I, of essays 
from ' k Doctor and Patient/' by S. Weir Mitchell, 
copyright, 1904, by J. B. Lippincott & Company. 


If my power to say what is best fitted to help my 
readers were as large as the experience that guides 
my speech, I should feel more assured of its value. 
But sometimes the very excess of the material from 
which one is to deduce formulas and to draw remem- 
brances is an embarrassment, for I think I may say 
without lack of modesty in statement, that perhaps 
scarce any one can have seen more of women who have 
been made by disease, disorder, outward circumstance, 
temperament, or some combination of these, morbid 
in mind, or been tormented out of just relation to the 
world about them. 

The position of the physician who deals with this 
class of ailments, with the nervous and feeble, the pain- 
worn, the hysterical, is one of the utmost gravity. It 
demands the kindliest charity. It exacts the most 
temperate judgments. It requires active, good temper. 
Patience, firmness, and discretion are among its neces- 

1 Extracts from Dr. Mitchell's Introductory to "Doctor and 
Patient." — Editor. 



sities. Above all, the man who is to deal with such 
cases must carry with him that earnestness which wins 
confidence. None other can learn all that should be 
learned by a physician of the lives, habits, and symp- 
toms of the different people whose cases he has to 
treat. From the rack of sickness sad confessions come 
to him, more, indeed, than he may care to hear. To 
confess is, for mysterious reasons, most profoundly 
human, and in weak and nervous women this tendency 
is sometimes exaggerated to the actual distortion of 
facts. The priest hears the crime or folly of the hour, 
but to the physician are oftener told the long, sad tales 
of a whole life, its far-away mistakes, its failures, and 
its faults. None may be quite foreign to his purpose 
or needs. The causes of breakdowns and nervous dis- 
aster, and consequent emotional disturbances and their 
bitter fruit, are often to be sought in the remote past. 
He may dislike the quest, but he cannot avoid it. If 
he be a student of character, it will have for him a 
personal interest as well as the relative value of its 
applicative side. The moral world of the sick-bed ex- 
plains in a measure some of the things that are strange 
in daily life, and the man who does not know sick 
women does not know women. 

I have been often asked by ill women if my 



contact with the nervous weaknesses, the petty moral 
deformities of nervous feminine natures, had not less- 
ened my esteem for woman. I say, surely, no! So 
much of these is due to educational errors, so much 
to false relationships with husbands, so much is born 
out of that which healthfully dealt with, or fortunately 
surrounded, goes to make all that is sincerely charm- 
ing in the best of women. The largest knowledge finds 
the largest excuses, and therefore no group of men 
so truly interprets, comprehends, and sympathizes with 
woman as do physicians, who know how near to dis- 
order and how close to misfortune she is brought by 
the very peculiarities of her nature, which evolve in 
health the flower and fruitage of her perfect life. 


Nervousness and Its Influence on Character 

There are two questions often put to me which I 
desire to use as texts for the brief essay or advice of 
which nervousness * is the heading. As concerns this 
matter, I shall here deal with women alone, and with 
women as I see and know them. I have elsewhere 
written at some length as to nervousness in the male, 
for he, too, in a minor degree, and less frequently, 
may become the victim of this form of disability. 

So much has been written on this subject by myself 

1 Neither nerves nor nervousness are words to be found in the Bible 
or Shakespeare. The latter uses the word nerve at least seven times in 
the sense of sinewy. Nervy, which is obsolete, he employs as full of 
nerves, sinewy, strong. It is still heard in America, but I am sure would 
be classed as slang. Writers, of course, still employ nerve and nervous in 
the old sense, as a nervous style. Bailey's dictionary, 1734, has nervous, 
— sinewy, strongly made. Robt. WTiytte, Edin., in the preface to his 
work on certain maladies, 1765, says, "Of late these have also got the 
name of nervous," and this is the earliest use of the word in the modern 
meaning I have found. Richardson has it in both its modern meanings, 
"vigorous," or "sensitive in nerves, and consequently weak, diseased." 
Hysteria is not in the Bible, and is found once in Shakespeare; as, "Hys- 
terica passio, down," Lear ii. 4. It was common in Sydenham's day, — 
i.e., Charles II. and Cromwell's time, — but he classified under hysteria 
many disorders no longer considered as of this nature. 



and others, that I should hesitate to treat it anew from 
a mere didactic point of view. But, perhaps, if I can 
bring home to the sufferer some more individualized 
advice, if I can speak here in a friendly and familiar 
way, I may be of more service than if I were to re- 
peat, even in the fullest manner, all that is to be said 
or has been said of nervousness from a scientific point 
of view. 

The two questions referred to above are these : The 
woman who consults you says, " I am nervous. I 
did not use to be. What can I do to overcome it? " 
Once well again, she asks you, — and the query is 
common enough from the thoughtful, — " What can I 
do to keep my girls from being nervous ? " 

Observe, now, that this woman has other distresses, 
in the way of aches and feebleness. The prominent 
thing in her mind, nervousness, is but one of the symp- 
tomatic results of her condition. She feels that to be 
the greatest evil, and that it is which she puts forward. 
What does she mean by nervousness, and what does 
it do with her which makes it so unpleasant ? Remark 
also that this is not one of the feebler sisters who ac- 
cept this ill as a natural result, and who condone for 
themselves the moral and social consequences as things 
over which they have little or no reasonable control. 
The person who asks this fertile question has once been 
well, and resents as unnatural the weaknesses and in- 
capacities which now she feels. She wants to be 
helped, and will help you to help her. You have an 


S. Weir Mitchell 

active ally, not a passive fool who, too, desires to be 
made well, but can give you no potent aid. There are 
many kinds of fool, from the mindless fool to the 
fiend-fool, but for the most entire capacity to make a 
household wretched there is no more complete human 
receipt than a silly woman who is to a high degree 
nervous and feeble, and who craves pity and likes 
powder. But to go back to the more helpful case. If 
you are wise, you ask what she means by nervousness. 
You soon learn that she suffers in one of two, 
or probably in both of two, ways. The parentage is 
always mental in a large sense, the results either men- 
tal or physical or both. She has become doubtful and 
fearful, where formerly she was ready-minded and 
courageous. Once decisive, she is now indecisive. 
When well, unemotional, she is now too readily dis- 
turbed by a sad tale or a startling newspaper-para- 
graph. A telegram alarms her; even an unopened 
letter makes her hesitate and conjure up dreams of 
disaster. Very likely she is irritable and recognizes 
the unreasonableness of her temper. Her daily tasks 
distress her sorely. She can no longer sit still and 
sew or read. Conversation no longer interests, or it 
even troubles her. Noises, especially sudden noises, 
startle her, and the cries and laughter of children have 
become distresses of which she is ashamed, and of 
which she complains or not, as her nature is weak or 
enduring. Perhaps, too, she is so restless as to want 
to be in constant motion, but that seems to tire her 



as it once did not. Her sense of moral proportion be- 
comes impaired. Trifles grow large to her ; the grass- 
hopper is a burden. With all this, and in a measure 
out of all this, come certain bodily disabilities. The 
telegram or any cause of emotion sets her to shaking. 
She cries for no cause ; the least alarm makes her hand 
shake, and even her writing, if she should chance to 
become the subject of observation when at the desk, 
betrays her state of tremor. What caused all this 
trouble ? What made her, as she says, good for noth- 
ing? I have^ of course, put an extreme case. We 
may, as a rule, be pretty sure, as to this condition, 
that the woman has had some sudden shock, some 
severe domestic trial, some long strain, or that it is 
the outcome of acute illness or of one of the forms 
of chronic disturbance of nutrition which result in 
what we now call general neurasthenia or nervous 
weakness, — a condition which has a most varied 
parentage. With the ultimate medical causation of 
these disorderly states of body I do not mean to 
concern myself here, except to add also that the 
great physiological revolutions of a woman's life are 
often responsible for the physical failures which create 

If she is at the w T orst she becomes a ready victim 
of hysteria. The emotions so easily called into activity 
give rise to tears. Too weak for wholesome restraint, 
she yields. The little convulsive act we call crying 
brings uncontrollable, or what seems to her to be 


S. Weir Mitchell 

uncontrollable, twitching of the face. The jaw and 
hands get rigid, and she has a hysterical convulsion, 
and is on the way to worse perils. The intelligent 
despotism of self-control is at an end, and every new 
attack upon its normal prerogatives leaves her less 
and less able to resist. 

Let us return to the causes of this sad condition. 
It is a common mistake to suppose that the well and 
strong are not liable to onsets which cause nervousness. 
As a rule, they rarely suffer; but we are neatly bal- 
lasted, and some well people are nearer to the chance 
of being so overturned than it is pleasant to believe. 
Thus it is that what for lack of a better name we 
call " shock " is at times and in some people capable 
of inflicting very lasting evil in the way of nervous- 

We see this illustrated in war in the effects of even 
slight injuries on certain people. I have known a 
trivial wound to make a brave man suddenly timid 
and tremulous for months, or to disorder remote or- 
gans and functions in a fashion hard to understand. 
In the same way, a moral wound for which we are 
not prepared may bring about abrupt and prolonged 
consequences, from which the most robust health does 
not always protect us, and which is in proportion dis- 
astrous if the person on whom it falls is by tempera- 
ment excitable or nervous. I have over and over seen 
such shocks cause lasting nervousness. I knew a stout 
young clerk who was made tremulous, cowardly, sleep- 



less, and, in the end, feeble, from having at a funeral 
fallen by mishap into an open grave. I have seen a 
strong woman made exquisitely nervous owing to the 
fall of a wall which did her no material damage. 
Earthquakes cause many such cases, and bad ones, 
as we have had of late sad occasion to know. The 
sudden news of calamity, as ol a death or financial 
disaster, has in my experience made vigorous people 
nervous for months. A friend of mine once received 
a telegram which rather brutally announced the dis- 
grace of one dear to him. He had a sense of ex- 
plosion in his head, and for weeks was in a state of 
nervousness from which he but slowly recovered. 
There is something in cases like his to think about. 
The least preparation would have saved him, and we 
may be sure that there is wisdom in the popular idea 
that ill news should be gently and guardedly broken 
to such as must hear it. To be forewarned is to be 
forearmed we say with true wisdom. 

Prolonged strain of mind and body, or of both, 
is another cause apt to result in health failures and 
in nervousness as one attendant evil. The worst one 
I know is to nurse some person through a long disease. 
Women are apt to think that no one can so well care 
for their sick as they. Intrusion on this duty is 
resented as a wrong done to their sense of right. The 
friend who would help is thrust aside. The trained 
nurse excites jealous indignation. The volunteer gives 
herself soul and body to the hardest of tasks, and is 


S. Weir Mitchell 

rather proud of the folly of self-sacrifice. How often 
do we hear a woman say with pride, " I have not slept 
nor had my clothes off for a week." She does not 
see that her very affection unfits her for the calm con- 
trol of the sick-room, and that her inevitable anxiety 
is incompatible with tranquil judgment. If you tell 
her that nursing is a profession, and that the amateur 
can never truly fill the place of the regular, she smiles 
proudly, and thinks that affection is capable of all 
things, and that what may be lost in skill will be made 
up in thoroughness and compensated by watchfulness, 
such as she believes fondly only love can command. 
It is hard to convince such a woman. 

It rarely chances that women are called upon to 
suffer in their common lives emotional strains through 
very long periods, and at the same time to sustain an 
excess of mental and physical labor. In days of finan- 
cial trouble this combination is sometimes fatal to the 
health of the strongest men. When a loving relative 
undertakes to nurse one dear to her through a pro- 
tracted illness, she subjects herself to just such con- 
ditions of peril as fall upon the man staggering under 
financial adversity. 

The analogy to which I have referred is curiously 
complete. In both there is the combination of anxiety 
with physical and mental overwork, and in both alike 
the hurtfulness of the trial is masked by the excite- 
ment which furnishes for a while the means of waging 
unequal battle, and prevents the sufferer from know- 



ing or feeling the extent of the too constant effort 
he or she is making. This is one of the evils of 
all work done under excessive moral stimulus, and 
when the excitation comes from the emotions the ex- 
penditure of nerve-force becomes doubly dangerous, 
because in this case not only is the governing power 
taken away from the group of faculties which make 
up what we call common sense, but also because in 
women overtaxing the emotional centres is apt to re- 
sult in the development of some form of breakdown, 
and in the secondary production of nervousness or 

If she cannot afford a nurse, or will not, let her 
at least share her duties with some one. Above all, 
let her know that every competent doctor watches even 
the best of his trained nurses, and insists that they 
shall be in the open air daily. Your good wife or 
mother thinks in her heart that w T hen she has sickness 
at home she should not be seen out of doors, and that 
to eat, sleep, or care for herself is then wicked or 
something like that. 

If you can make a woman change her dress, eat 
often, bathe as usual, and take the air, even if it must 
be so at night, she can stand a great deal, especially 
if you insist that she shall sleep her usual length of 
time. If she will not listen or obey, she runs a large 
risk, and is very apt to collapse as the patient re- 
covers, and to furnish her family with a new case of 
illness, and the doctor and herself with some variety 


S. Weir Mitchell 

of disorder of mind or body arising out of this terrible 
strain on both. 

If physical tire, without chance for rest, with 
anxiety and incessant vigilance, is thus apt to cause 
wrecks in the nurse of ordinary illness, far more apt 
is it to involve breakdowns when a loving mother or 
sister endeavors to care for a protracted case of in- 
sanity. Unless the man of the house interferes, this 
effort is sure to bring disaster. And the more sensi- 
tive, imaginative, and loving is the self-appointed 
nurse, the more certain is she to suffer. There are no 
cases in which it is so hard to advise, none in which 
it is so difficult to get people to follow your advice. 
The morbid view of insanity, the vague sense of its 
being a stain, the horror of the hospital, all combine 
to perplex and trouble us. Yet here, if at any time, 
it is wise to cast the whole weight on the physician 
and to abide by his decision. 

Families see this peril, and can be often made to 
understand the unwisdom of this sacrifice; but, in cases 
of prolonged disease, such as hysteria in a bedridden 
sister or mother, it is hard to make them hear reason, 
and still more hard to make the nursing relation un- 
derstand that she is of necessity the worst of nurses, 
and may share the wreck she helps to make. 

These old and happily rare cases of chronic nervous 
invalids are simply fatal to loving nurses. I have 
said, perhaps too often, that invalidism is for most 
of us a moral poison. Given a nervous, hysterical, 



feeble woman, shut out from the world, and if she 
does not in time become irritable, exacting, hungry for 
sympathy and petty power, she is one of nature's 
noblest. A mother or sister gives herself up to caring 
for her. She is in the grip of an octopus. Every fine 
quality of her nature helps to hurt her, and at last 
she breaks down utterly and can do no more. She, 
too, is become nervous, unhappy, and feeble. Then 
every one wonders that nobody had the sense to see 
what was going on. I can count many examples of 
nervousness which have arisen in this fashion. Per- 
haps my warning may not be without good results. 
Over and over I have made like statements in one 
or another form, and the increasing experience of 
added years only contributes force to my belief that, 
in still urging the matter, I am doing a serious duty. 
I ought to say also that the care of these invalids is, 
even to the well-trained and thoughtful nurse, one of 
the most severe of moral and physical trials, and that, 
in the effort to satisfy the cravings of these sick people, 
I have seen the best nurses crumble as it were in 
health, and at last give up, worn out and disheartened. 
A part of the responsibility of such disasters falls on 
the physician who forgets that it should be a portion 
of his duty to look sharply after the health of too 
devoted nurses as well as that of selfish patients. 

I have now said all that I need to say of the causes 
which, directly or indirectly, evoke the condition we 
call nervousness. Many of these are insidious in their 


S. JVeir Mitchell 

growth. Too often the husband, if she be married, 
is immersed in his own cares, and fails to see what is 
going on. u I am not ill enough to see a doctor/' 
she says, and waits until she has needlessly increased 
the difficulties of his task. Let us suppose, however, 
that, soon or late, she is doing, in a merely medical 
way, all that he insists upon, what more can she do 
for herself? She has before her very likely a long 
trial, severe in its exactions in proportion to her 
previous activity of mind and body. She most prob- 
ably needs rest, and now that physicians have learned 
its value, and that not all ills are curable by exertion, 
she is told to lie down some hours each day. If she 
cannot eet rid of her home duties, let her try at least 
to secure to herself despotically her times of real and 
true rest. To lie down is not enough. What she 
needs is undisturbed repose, and not to have to ex- 
pect every few minutes to hear at her door the knocks 
and voices of servants or children. It is difficult to 
secure these most needful times of silent security even 
in health, as most women too well know. Very often 
the after-meal hours are the most available and the 
more desirable as times of repose, because in the weak 
digestion goes on better when they are at rest. She 
will find, too, that some light food between meals and 
at bedtime is useful, but this is within the doctor's 
province, and I am either desirous to avoid that or 
to merely help him. Air, too, she wants rather than 
any such great exertion as wearies ; and, as regards 



this latter, let her understand that letter-writing, of 
which many women are fond, must be altogether set 

It is, however, the moral aspects of life which will 
trouble her most. The cares which once were easily 
shaken off stick to her like burrs, and she carries them 
to bed with her. I have heard women say that men 
little know the moral value to women of sewing. It 
becomes difficult when people are nervous, but this 
or some other light handiwork is then invaluable. 

By this time she has learned that her minor, every- 
day duties trouble her, and when about to meet them, 
if wise, she w r ill put herself, as we all can do, in an 
attitude of calmness. This applies still more forcibly 
to the larger decisions she must so often have to make 
as to children, house, and servants. Worry, as I have 
elsewhere said,, is as sand in the mental and moral 
machinery, and easily becomes a mischievous habit. 
We can stand an immense deal of work, and can, 
even if weak, bear much, if only we learn to dismiss 
small questions without worry or unreasonable re- 
considerations. As concerns temper, we constantly 
prepare ourselves to meet even just causes of anger, 
and thus by degrees learn more and more easily, and 
with less and less preparation, to encounter tranquilly 
even the most serious vexations. In health, when not 
nervous, a woman well knows that there are seasons 
when she must predetermine not to be nervous; and 
when ill-health has made her emotional, she must learn 


S. Weir Mitchell 

to be still, more constantly on guard. Above all, it is 
the small beginnings of nervousness which she has 
to fear. 

Tears are, for the nervous woman, the seed of 
trouble. Let her resolutely shun this commencement 
of disaster. The presence of others is apt to insure 
failure of self-control. A word of pity, the touch of 
affection, the face of sympathy, double her danger. 
When at her worst, let her seek to be alone and in 
silence and solitude to fight her battle. Fresh air, 
a bath (if she can bear that), even the act of un- 
dressing, will often help her. I once quoted a valued 
friend as saying that " we never take out of a cold 
bath the thoughts we take into it," and the phrase is 
useful and true. 

Above all, let such a woman avoid all forms of 
emotion. Her former standards of resistance apply 
no longer, and what once did not disturb will now 
shake her to the centre. A time comes, however, when 
she will do well to meet and relearn to bear calmly 
all the little emotional trials of life. I know T a nervous 
woman — and no coward, either — who for months, and 
wisely, read no newspapers, and who asked another to 
open and read all her letters and telegrams. The day 
came when she was able to resume the habits of health, 
but for a long time the telegram at least was a sore 
distress, and she could only meet it by a resolute put- 
ting of herself in the attitude of tranquillity of which 
I have spoken. To say more should be needless. For 



the nervous strong emotions are bad or risky, and 
from violent mirth to anger all are to be sedulously set 
aside. Calm of mind and quiet of body are what she 
most needs to aid the more potent measures of the 

The woman in the situation I have described has 
probably a variety of symptoms on which her condi- 
tion causes her to dwell. A great many of them are 
of little practical moment. If she is irresolute and 
weak, she yields where she should not, and finds for 
inactivity or for fears ample excuses in the state of 
her own feelings. An unwholesome crop of dis- 
abilities grows out of these conditions. It then be- 
comes the business of her physician to tell her what 
is real, what is unreal, what must be respected, what 
must be overcome or fought. She has acquired within 
herself a host of enemies. Some are strong, some are 
feeble. The hour for absolute trust has arrived, and 
she must now believe in her adviser, or, if she can- 
not, she must acquire one in whom her belief will 
be entire and unquestioning. 

Let us take an illustration. Such a woman is apt 
enough to suffer from vertigo or giddiness. " If I 
walk out," she says, " I become giddy. I am rarely 
free from this unless I am in bed, and it terrifies 
me." You know in this case that she is still strong 
enough to exercise in moderation. You say, " Walk 
so much daily. When you fall we will think about 
stopping. Talk to some one when you go out; have 


S. Weir Mitchell 

a friend with you, but walk.'' She must believe you 
to succeed. This is a form of faith-cure which has 
other illustrations. You tell her that she must dis- 
regard her own feelings. She credits you with know- 
ing, and so wins her fight. 

There is a sense of fatigue which at some time 
she should learn to treat with disrespect, especially 
when disuse of her powers has made their exercise 
difficult, and yet when returning health makes it wise 
to employ them. To think, and at last to feel sure 
that she cannot walk is fatal. And above all, and at 
all times, close attention to her own motions is a great 
evil. We cannot swallow a pill because we think of 
what, as regards the larger morsels of food, we do 
automatically. Moreover, attention intensifies fatigue. 
Walk a mile, carefully willing each leg-motion, and 
you will be tired. The same evil results of attention 
are observed in disease as regards other functions over 
which we seem in health to be without direct power 
of control. 

" Mind-cure," so called, has, in some shape, its 
legitimate sphere in the hands of men who know their 
profession. It is not rare to find among nervous 
women a few in whom you can cause a variety of 
odd symptoms by pressing on a tender spine and sug- 
gesting to the woman that now she is going to feel 
certain pains in breast, head, or limbs. Nervous 
women have, more or less, a like capacity to create 
or intensify pains and aches, but when a woman is 



assured that she only seems to have such ailments she 
is apt, if she be one kind of woman, to be vexed. 
These dreamed pains — I hardly know what else to call 
them — are, to her, real enough. If she be another 
kind of woman, if she believes you, she sets herself 
to disregard these aches and to escape their results 
by ceasing to attend to them. You may call this mind- 
cure or what you will, but it succeeds. Now and then 
you meet with cases in which, from sudden shock or 
accident, a woman is led to manufacture a whole train 
of disabling symptoms, and if in these instances you 
can convince her that she is well and can walk, eat, 
etc., like others, you make one of those singular cures 
which at times fall to the luck of mind- or faith-cures 
when the patient has not had the happy fortune to 
meet with a physician who is intelligent, sagacious as 
to character, and has the courage of his opinions. I 
could relate many such cases if this were the place 
to do so, but all I desire here is to win the well woman 
and the nervously-sick woman to the side of the physi- 
cian. If she flies from him to seek aid from the 
ignorant fanatic, she may, in rare cases, get what her 
trained adviser ought to give her and she be willing 
to use, while in unskilful hands she runs sad risks of 
having her too morbid attention riveted to her many 
symptoms ; for to think too much about their disorders 
is, on the whole, one of the worst things which can 
happen to man or woman, and wholesome self-atten- 
tion is difficult, nay, impossible, to command without 


S. Weir Mitchell 

help from a personally-uninterested mind outside of 

I cannot leave this subject without a further word 
of solemn warning. In my youth we had mesmerism 
with its cures, then we had and have spiritualism with 
its like pretensions. From time to time we have had 
faith-cures. They come and they go, and have no 
stable life. The evil they do lives after them in the 
many mental wrecks they leave. When the charlatan 
Newton was ordering every class of the sick to get 
well, I was called upon to see case after case of the 
most calamitous results on mind and body. Now and 
then he had the luck to meet some one who was merely 
idea-sick, — a class of cases we know well. Then he 
made a cure which would have been as easy to me 
as to him. I made much inquiry, but could never find 
a case of organic disease with distinct tissue-changes 
which he had cured. A man with hopeless rheumatic 
alterations of joints was made to walk a few steps 
without crutches. This he did at sore cost of pain, 
and then came to me to tell me his tale with a new 
set of crutches, the healer having kept the old set 
as evidence of the cure. And now we have the mind- 
cure, Christian science and the like, — a muddle of 
mystical statements, backed by a medley of the many 
half-examined facts, which show the influence of 
mental and moral states over certain forms of dis- 
order. The rarity of these makes them to be suspected. 
Hardly any have the solid base of a thorough medical 



study, and we lose sight of them at the moment of 
cure and learn nothing as to their future. 

The books on mind-cure are calculated to make 
much and serious evil. I have read them with care, 
and have always risen from them with the sense of 
confusion which one would have if desired to study a 
pattern from the back of a piece of embroidery. There 
is, however, a class of minds which delight in the 
fogs of mystery, and, when a book puzzles them, ac- 
cept this as evidence of depth of thought. I have been 
bewildered at times by the positiveness and reasoning 
folly of the insane, and I think most trained intelli- 
gences will feel that books like these mystical volumes 
require an amount of care and thinking to avoid be- 
wilderment of which the mass of men and women 
are not possessed. In a few years they will be the 
rarely read and dusty volumes, hid away in libraries, 
and consulted only by those who undertake the sad 
task of writing the history of credulity. Their creed 
will die with them, and what is best of it and true 
will continue to be used by the thoughtful physician, 
as it has been in all ages. But, meanwhile, it is doing 
much harm and little good. Every neurologist sees 
already some of its consequences, and I, myself, have 
over and over had to undo some of the evil it had 

Our nervous woman is well. Slowly, very slowly, 
she has won flesh and color, which means gain in 
quality and quantity of blood. By degrees, too, she 


S. Weir Mitchell 

has been able to return to the habits and endurances 
of health. And now she asks that other question, " I 
have daughters who are yet young, but how shall I 
guard them against nervousness? " and again puts 
forward this single complex symptom in disregard of 
the states of body which usually accompany it, and 
are to us matters quite as grave. She knows well that 
the mass of women are by physiological nature more 
liable to be nervous than are men. It is a sad draw- 
back in the face of the duties of life, that a very little 
emotional disturbance will suffice to overcome the 
woman as it does not do the man, and that the same 
disease which makes him irritable makes her nervous. 
Says Romanes, in an admirable and impartial article 
on the mental differences of men and women, " She 
is pre-eminent for affection, sympathy, devotion, self- 
denial, modesty, long-suffering or patience under pain, 
disappointment, and adversity, for reverence, venera- 
tion, religious feeling, and general morality." I accept 
his statement to add that these very virtues do many 
of them lead to the automatic development of emotion, 
which, in its excesses and its uncontrolled states, is the 
parent of much of the nervousness not due to the en- 
feeblement of disease. 1 

With the intellectual differences between man and 
woman I have here little to do. That there is differ- 
ence, both quantitative and in a measure qualitative, 
I believe, nor do I think any educational change in 

1 Journal of Popular Science, July, 1887. 



generations of women will ever set her, as to certain 
mental and moral qualifications, as an equal beside the 
man. It would be as impossible as to make him 
morally and physically, by any educational or other 
training, what the woman now is, his true superior in 
much that is as high, and as valuable as any mental 
capacities he may possess; nor does my creed involve 
for woman any refusal of the loftiest educational at- 
tainments. I would only insist on selection and cer- 
tain limitations as to age of training and methods of 
work, concerning which I shall by and by have some- 
thing more to say. Neither would I forbid to her any 
profession or mode of livelihood. This is a human 
right. I do not mean to discuss it here either as 
citizen or physician; but, as man, I like to state for 
my fellow-man that there are careers now sought and 
won and followed by her which for him inevitably 
lessen her true attractiveness, and to my mind make 
her less fit to be the " friendly lover and the loving 
friend." * ^Esthetic and other sacrifices in this direc- 
tion are, however, her business, not mine, and do not 
influence my practical judgments as to what freedom 
to act is or should be hers in common with men. For 

1 One would like to know how many women truly want the suffrage, 
and how, when it was won, the earnest anti-tariff wife would construe 
the marriage service in the face of the husband's belief in high tariff. 
The indirect influence of women in politics is worth a thought. We felt 
it sorely in 1861, and thence on to the war's end, and to-day it is the 
woman who is making the general prohibition laws probable. For ill or 
good she is still a power in the state. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

most men, when she seizes the apple, she drops the 
rose. I am a little afraid that Mrs. Lynn Linton is 
right as to this, but it took some courage to say what 
she said, 1 and she looks at the matter from a more 
practical point of view, and deserves to be read at 
length rather than quoted in fragments. 

I return to the subject. We want our young girl 
to be all that Romanes says she is. We desire, too, 
that she shall be as thoroughly educated in relation 
to her needs as her brothers, and that in so training 
her we shall not forget that my ideal young person is 
to marry or not, and, at all events, is to have a good 
deal of her life in her home with others, and should 
have some resources for minor or self-culture and oc- 
cupation besides the larger ones which come of more 
distinctively intellectual acquirements. 

I turn now to the mother who asks this question, 
and say, " What of your boys? Why are you not 
concerned as to them ? " " Oh, boys are never nervous. 
One couldn't stand that ; but they never are. Girls are 
so different." My answer is a long one. I wish I 
could think that it might be so fresh and so attractive 
as to secure a hearing; but the preacher goes on, Sun- 
day after Sunday, saying over and over the same old 
truths, and, like him, with some urgency within me 
to speak, I can only hope that I may be able so 
to restate certain ancient verities as to win for them 
a novel respect and a generous acceptation. 

1 Fortnightly \ 1886. 



The strong animal is, as a rule, the least liable 
to damaging emotion and its consequences. Train 
your girls physically, and, up to the age of adolescence, 
as you train your boys. Too many mothers make haste 
to recognize the sexual difference. To run, to climb, 
to swim, to ride, to play violent games, ought to be 
as natural to the girl as to the boy. All this is fast 
changing for us, and for the better. When I see young 
girls sweating from a good row or the tennis-field, I 
know that it is preventive medicine. I wish I saw how 
to widen these useful habits so as to give like chances 
to the poor, and I trust the time will come when the 
mechanic and the laborer shall insist on public play- 
grounds as the right of his little ones. 1 

The tender mother, who hates dirt and loves neat- 
ness, and does not like to hear her girls called tom- 
boys, may and does find it hard to cultivate this free 
out-door life for her girls even when easy means make 
the matter less difficult than it is for the caged dweller 
in cities during a large portion or the whole of a year. 

I may leave her to see that delicacy and modesty 
find place enough in her educational trainings, but let 
her also make sure that her girls have whatever chance 
she can afford to live out of doors, and to use the 

1 The demagogue urges his rights to much that he cannot have in 
any conceivable form of society. Let him ask for free libraries, free 
baths, free music, and, above all, free and ample play-grounds within 
easy reach. I wonder that the rich who endow colleges do not ever think 
of creating play-grounds. I wish I could open some large pockets by 
an appeal to hearts at large. 


S. TVelr Mitchell 

sports which develop the muscles and give tone and 
vigor. Even in our winters and in-doors ? she can try- 
to encourage active games such as shuttlecock and 
graces. I know of homes where the girls put on the 
gloves, and stand up with their brothers, and take 
gallantly the harmless blows which are so valuable a 
training in endurance and self-control. 

I am reminded as I write that what I say applies 
and must apply chiefly to the leisure class ; but in 
others there is a good deal of manual work done of 
necessity, and, after all, the leisure class is one which 
ia rapidly increasing in America, and which needs, 
especially among its new recruits, the very kind of 
advice I am now giving. Severer games, such as 
cricket, which I see girls playing with their brothers, 
tennis, fencing, and even boxing, have for both sexes 
moral values. They teach, or some of them teach, 
endurance, contempt of little hurts, obedience to laws, 
control of temper, in a word, much that under ordinary 
circumstances growing girls do not get out of their 
gentler games. These are worth some risks, and such 
as they are need not trouble seriously the most careful 
mother. Xeither need she fear for girls up to the 
age of puberty that they are any more liable to serious 
damage than are her boys. 

When for her young daughters this time of change 
comes near, she may rest assured that their thorough 
physical training will have good results. Beyond this 
point it is hard to generalize, and, of course, the more 



violent games, in which girl and boy are or may be 
as one, must cease. But each case must stand alone, 
and so be judged. There are plenty of healthy girls 
who may continue to row, to ride, to swim, to walk 
as before, but there are individual cases as to which 
advice is needed, although, as to all girls, it should 
be the rule that at certain times temperate exercise, 
lessened walks, and no dancing, riding, rowing, skat- 
ing, or swimming should be allowed. Girls feel these 
restrictions less if they are so stringently taught from 
the outset as to become habits, and this is all I care 
to say. 

Once past the critical years, and there is no reason 
why the mass of women should not live their own lives 
as men live theirs, except that always, in my opinion, 
the prudent woman will at certain times save herself. 
It is still true that even healthy women exercise too 
little. Our climate makes walking unpleasant, and to 
get in a good sweat in summer, or to wade through 
slush in winter, is hateful to the female soul. The 
English reproach us with this defect, and rightly, but 
do not estimate the difficulties of climate. Australian 
women walk little, and the English dame who comes 
to this country to live soon succumbs to the despotism 
of climate and abandons her habits of ample exercise 

The in-door resources of women for chest and arm 
exertion are sadly few, and I think it fortunate when 
they are so situated as to have to do things in the 


d. Weir Mitchell 

household which exact vigorous use of the upper ex- 
tremities. Nothing is a better ally against nervousness 
or irritability in any one than either out-door exer- 
cise or pretty violent use of the muscles. I knew a 
nervously-inclined woman who told me that when 
she was losing self-control she was accustomed to seek 
her own room, and see how long she could keep up 
a shuttlecock without a failure. As to weather, again, 
I should say the worse the weather the better the ex- 
ercise of a brisk walk; and my wise mother shall see 
that her girls do not dawdle about in-doors, but get 
a good tramp under all skies as a part of the habits 
of life. A sturdy struggle with a rough day blows 
the irritability and nervousness of the hour out of any 
but the truly sick, and I know as to some folks that 
the more they are out of doors the better they are 
morally as well as physically. 

My ideal mother has looked on and seen her daugh- 
ters grow up to be strong and vigorous. When the 
time came, she has not forgotten that she has had and 
has to deal with one of her own sex. During the years 
of their childhood she should understand, as concerns 
her girls, that to differentiate too largely their moral 
lessons from those of their brothers is unwise. Some- 
thing as to this I have said in a former chapter as con- 
cerns the training of invalid children. It applies also 
to the well. The boy is taught self-control, repres- 
sion of emotion, not to cry when hurt. Teach your 
girls these things, and you will in the end assure to 



them that habitual capacity to suffer moral and physi- 
cal ill without exterior show of emotion, which is so 
true an aid to the deeper interior control which sub- 
dues emotion at its sources, or robs it of its power 
to harm. Physical strength and an out-door life will 
make this lesson easy and natural. Be certain that 
weakness of body fosters and excuses emotional non- 
restraint, and that under long illness the most hardy 
man may become as nervously foolish as a spoiled 
child. Crave, then, for your girls strength and bodily 
power of endurance, and with this insist that the boy's 
code of emotional control shall be also theirs. But 
to do all this you must begin with them young, and 
not have to make each year undo the failure of the 
last. A dog-trainer once told me that it was a good 
thing to w T hip the smallest pups with a straw, and to 
teach them good habits, or try to do so, from birth. 
He put it strongly ; but be sure that if we wish to build 
habits thoroughly into the mental and physical struc- 
ture of childhood, we shall do well to begin early. As 
regards the out-door life, I shall have something more 
to say in another place, for much is within the reach 
of the thoughtful, which, with reasonable means, they 
can get for girls and women, and which yet they do 
not get ; and there are many w r ays in which also we 
can so train our girls as to create for them constant 
and lasting bribes to be in the air. 

The question of education is a more difficult one 
to handle. In childhood I do not see that our wise 


S. Weir Mitchell 

mother need be anxious ; but there comes a day when 
her girl is entering womanhood, when she will have 
to think of it. I have dealt with this question so 
fully of late that I have little here to add. 1 Our pub- 
lic schools are so organized that there is small place 
or excuse for indulgence, although, under wise man- 
agement, this has been shown to be possible. 2 But 
there is a vast and growing class which is so situated 
that the mother can more largely control the studies 
and hours of her girls than can the parents of those 
who frequent our municipal schools. 

A great change is on her child. Let her watch 
its evolution, and not with such apparent watchful- 
ness as shall suggest the perils she is to look out for. 
We are all organized with a certain capital of nerve- 
force, and we cannot spend it with equal recklessness 
in all directions. If the girl bears well her gathering 
work, — that is, as one could wish, — we may let her 
alone, except that the wise mother will insist on lighter 
tasks and some rest of body at the time when nature 
is making her largest claim upon the vital powers. 
The least sign of physical failure should ring a graver 
alarm, and make the mother insist, at every cost, upon 
absence of lessons and reasonable repose. The mat- 
ter is simple, and I have no more to say. 

I am dealing now so entirely with the moral and 
physical aspects of a woman's life, and so distinctly 
from the medical point of view, that I do not feel 

1 "Wear and Tear," 6th ed., 1887. 2 Ibid., p. 54, 



called upon to discuss, in all its aspects, the mooted 
question of the values and the perils of the higher 
education. At one time it was not open to women 
at all. Now it is within her reach. Our girl is well, 
and has passed, happily, over her time of development. 
Will the larger education which she so often craves 
subject her to risks such as are not present to the 
man, — risks of broken health and of its consequences ? 
I w T ish to speak with care to the mother called upon 
to decide this grave question. I most honestly be- 
lieve that the woman is the better in mind and morals 
for the larger training, better if she marries, and far 
better and happier if it chances that she does not. If 
we take the mass of girls, even of mature age, and 
give them the training commonly given to men, they 
run, I think, grave risks of being injured by it, and 
in larger proportion than do their brothers. Where 
it seems for other reasons desirable, it should be, I 
think, a question of individual selection. The majority 
of healthy young women ought to be able to bear 
the strain. Once in a female college, the woman goes 
on, and it is my own experience that, on the whole, 
she exhibits a far larger list of disastrous results 
from such work than do young men. If she be in 
the least degree nervous or not well, I, for one, should 
resolutely say no to all such claims; for let us bear 
in mind that the higher education is rarely to be used 
as men use it, to some definite end, and is therefore 
not, on the whole, so essential to her as to him. Few 


S. Weir Mitchell 

women mean it as a way towards medicine, or even 
the upper ranks of teaching; and if they do, the least 
doubt as to health ought to make us especially unwill- 
ing to start an unseaw T orthy or uninsurable vessel upon 
an ocean of perilous possibilities. I wish that every 
woman could attain to the best that men have. I wish 
for her whatever in the loftiest training helps to make 
her as mother more capable, as w T ife more helpful; 
but I would on no account let the healthiest woman 
thus task her brain until she is at least nineteen. If 
she is to marry, and this puts it off until twenty-three, 
I consider that a gain not counted by the advocates 
of the higher education. I leave to others to survey 
the broad question of whether or not it w T ill be well 
for the community that the mass of women should 
have a collegiate training. It is a wide and wrathful 
question, and has of late been very well discussed in 
Romanes's paper, and by Mrs. Lynn Linton. I think 
the conclusions of the former, on the whole, are just; 
but now, whatever be my views as to the larger in- 
terests of the commonwealth and the future mothers 
of our race, I must not forget that I am giving, or 
trying to give, what I may call individualized advice, 
from the physician's view, as to what is wisest. 

Let us suppose that circumstances make it seem 
proper to consider an ambitious young woman's wish, 
and to let her go to a college for women. We pre- 
sume that she has average health. But let no prudent 
mother suppose that in these collections of persons 



of one sex her child will be watched as she has been 
at home. At no time will she more need the vigilant 
insight of a mother, and yet this can only be had 
through letters and in the holiday seasons. Nor can 
the mother always rely upon the girl to put forward 
what may cause doubt as to her power to go on with 
her work. I utterly distrust the statistics of these 
schools and their graduates as to health, and my want 
of reliance arises out of the fact that this whole ques- 
tion is in a condition which makes the teachers, 
scholars, and graduates of such colleges antagonistic 
to masculine disbelievers in a way and to a degree 
fatal to truth. I trust far more what I hear from 
the women who have broken down under the effort 
to do more than they were fit to do, for always, say 
what you may, it is the man's standard of endurance 
w T hich is set before them, and up to which they try 
to live with all the energy which a woman's higher 
sense of duty imposes upon the ambitious ones of her 
sex. I have often asked myself what should be done 
to make sure that these schools shall produce the mini- 
mum amount of evil; what can be done to avoid the 
penalties inflicted by overstudy and class competitions, 
and by the emotional stimulus which women carry into 
all forms of work. Even if the doctor says this girl 
is sound and strong, her early months of college labor 
should be carefully watched. Above all, her eyes 
should be seen to, because in my experience some un- 
suspected disorder of vision has been fruitful of head- 

4 6 

S. Weir Mitchell 

aches and overstrain of brain, nor is it enough to 
know that at the beginning her eyes are good. Ex- 
treme use often evolves practical evils from visual 
difficulties at first so slight as to need or seem to need 
no correction. 

The period of examinations is, too, of all others, 
the time of danger, and I know of many sad break- 
downs due to the exaction and emotional anxieties 
of these days of competition and excitement. 

Let me once for all admit that many girls improve 
in health at these colleges, and that in some of them 
the machinery of organization for care of the mental 
and physical health of their students seems to be all 
that is desirable. That it does not work satisfactorily 
I am sure, from the many cases I have seen of women 
who have told me their histories of defeat and broken 
health. The reason is clear. The general feeling (shall 
I say prejudices?) of such groups of women is bit- 
terly opposed to conceding the belief held by physi- 
cians, that there are in the woman's physiological life 
disqualifications for such continuous labor of mind 
as is easy and natural to man. The public sentiment 
of these great schools is against any such creed, and 
every girl feels called upon to sustain the general view, 
so that this acts as a constant goad for such as are 
at times unfit to use their fullest possibility of energy. 
Modest girls, caught in the stern mechanism of a 
system, hesitate to admit reasons for lessened work 
or to exhibit signals of failure, and this I know to be 



the case. The practical outcome of it all is that the 
eyes of home can never be too thoughtfully busy with 
those of their girls who have won consent to pursue, 
away from maternal care, the higher education of 
female colleges. I must have wearied that wise mother 
by this time, but, perhaps, I have given her more 
than enough to make her dread these trials. 

I should say something as to the home-life of girls 
who go through the ordinary curriculum of city day 
schools were it not that I have of late so very fully 
reconsidered and rewritten my views as to this in- 
teresting question. I beg to refer my unsatisfied reader 
to a little book which, I am glad to know, has been 
helpful to many people in the last few years. 1 

x See " Wear and Tear," page 91.— Editor. 



To my mind, there is nothing more pleasant than 
the gradual return to health after some revolutionary 
disease which has removed a goodly portion of the 
material out of which is formed our bodily frame. 
Nature does this happy work deftly in most cases, 
where, at least, no grave organic mischief has been 
left by the malady; and in the process we get such 
pleasantness as comes always from the easy exercise 
of healthy function. The change from good to better 
day by day is in itself delightful, and if you have 
been so happy, when w r ell, as to have loved and served 
many, now is the good time when bun and biscuit 
come back to you, — shapely loaves of tenderness and 
gracious service. Flowers and books, and folks good 
and cheery to talk to, arrive day after day, and have 
for you a new zest which they had not in fuller health. 
Old tastes return and mild delights become luxuries, 
as if the new tissues in nerve and brain were not 
sated, like those of the older body in which they are 
taking their places. 

When you are acutely ill, the doctor is business- 



like and gravely kind; you want him in a way, are 
even anxious to see him for the relief he may bring, 
or the reassurance. But when you begin to feel as 
if you were a creature reborn, when you are safe 
and keenly enjoying the return of health, then it is 
that the morning visit is so delightful. You look for 
his coming and count on the daily chat. Should he 
chance to be what many of my medical brothers are, — 
educated, accomplished, with wide artistic and mental 
sympathies, — he brings a strong, breezy freshness of 
the outer world with him into the monastic life of 
the sick-room. One does not escape from being a 
patient because of being also a physician, and for my 
part I am glad to confess my sense of enjoyment in 
such visits, and how I have longed to keep my doctor 
at my side and to decoy him into a protracted stay. 
The convalescence he observes is for him, too, a 
pleasant thing. He has and should have pride in some 
distinct rescue, or in the fact that he has been able 
to stand by, with little interference, and see the disease 
run its normal course. I once watched a famous sur- 
geon just after he had done a life-saving operation 
by dim candle-light. He stood smiling as the child's 
breath came back, and kept nodding his head with 
pleasant sense of his own competence. He was most 
like a Newfoundland dog I once had the luck to see 
pull out a small child from the water and on to a raft. 
When we came up, the dog was wagging his tail and 
standing beside the child with sense of self-approval 


S. Weir Mitchell 

in every hair. The man wagged his head ; the dog 
wagged his tail. Each liked well what he had done. 

Thus it is that these half-hours by the convales- 
cent's couch are full of subtle flatten' for the doctor, 
and are apt to evolve the social best of him, as he 
notes the daily gain in strength and color, and listens, 
a tranquil despot, to one's pleas for this freedom or 
that indulgence. He turns over your books, suggests 
others, and, trained by a thousand such interviews, 
is likely enough a man interesting on many sides. 

You selfishly enjoy his visit, not suspecting that 
you, too, are ignorantly helpful. He has been in 
sadder homes to-day, has been sorely tried, has had 
to tell grim truths, is tired, mind and body. The visit 
he makes you is for him a pleasant oasis : not all con- 
valescents are agreeable. He goes away refreshed. 

Most doctors have their share, and more, of ill- 
ness, and are not, as I have seen stated, exempt from 
falling a prey to contagious maladies. Indeed, our 
records sadly show that this is not the case. Perhaps 
there is value for them and their future patients in 
the fact that they have been in turn patient and doctor 
and have served in both camps. Like other sick folks, 
the physician, as I know, looks forward, when ill, 
to the " morning visits " quite as anxiously as do any 
of those who have at times awaited his own coming. 

That medical poet who has the joyous art of send- 
ing a ripple of mirth across the faces of the Anglo- 
Saxon world recognizes this fact in a cheerful poem, 



called " The Morning Visit/' and to which I gladly 
refer any of my readers who would like to know from 
the lips of Oliver Wendell Holmes what manner of 
delightful patient he must have been. I can fancy 
that he lost for his doctor many a pleasant hour. 

It has seemed to me as if this wonderful remaking 
and regrowing of the tissues might be likened to a 
swift change from the weak childhood of disease to 
a sudden manhood of mind and body, in which is 
something of mysterious development elsewhere un- 
matched in life. Death has been minutely busy with 
your tissues, and millions of dead molecules are being 
restored in such better condition that not only are 
you become new in the best sense, — renewed, as we 
say, — but have gotten power to grow again, and, after 
your terrible typhoid or yellow fever, may win a half- 
inch or so in the next six months, — a doubtful ad- 
vantage for some of us, but a curious and sure sign 
of great integral change. 

The Greeks had a notion that once in seven years 
we are totally changed, the man of seven years back 
having in this time undergone an entire reconstruc- 
tion. We know now that life is a constant death 
and a renewing, — that our every-day nutrition in- 
volves millions of molecular deaths and as many mil- 
lions of births, — although to liken that which is so 
exquisitely managed, so undisturbingly done, to the 
coarser phenomena of death and birth is in a measure 


S. Weir Mitchell 

Diseases such as typhoid fever, or a sharp local 
lung-trouble like pneumonia, really do make these 
minute changes approximate in abruptness to death. 
You weigh, let us say, one hundred and eighty pounds, 
and you drop in three weeks of a fever to one hundred 
and thirty pounds. The rest of you is dead. You 
have lost, as men say, fifty pounds, but your debt to 
disease, or to the blunders of civilization, for it is a case 
of creditor behind creditor, is paid. Your capital is 
much diminished, but you have come out of the trial 
with an amazing renovation of energy. This is the 
happy convalescence of the wholesome man. The 
other, the unlucky, fellow, does not get as safely 
through the cleansing bankruptcy of disease. The 
vicious, unlucky, or gouty grandfather appears on the 
books of that court in mysterious ways; his sins are 
pathologically visited on his child's child in this time 
of testing strain. 

In the happy rush towards useful health, of a con- 
valescence undisturbed by drawbacks, it is pleasant to 
think, as one lies mending, of the good day to come 
when my friend, recovering from typhoid or small- 
pox, shall send for his legal adviser and desire him 
as usual to bring suit against the city for damages 
and loss of time. 

A little girl coughed in my face a hideous breath 
of membraneous decay. I felt at once a conviction of 
having been hit. Two days later I was down with 
her malady. She herself and two more of her family 



owed their disease to the overflow of a neighbor's 
cesspool, and to them — poor, careless folk — Death 
dealt out a yet sterner retribution. There was a semi- 
civilized community beyond both. Should one go 
to law about it and test the matter of ultimate re- 
sponsibility ? 

The amiability of convalescence is against it. One 
feels at peace with all the world, and so lies still, 
and reflects, " like souls that balance joy and pain," 
as to whether, on the whole, the matter has not had 
its valuable side. Certainly it has brought experiences 
not otherwise attainable. 

Of the deeper and more serious insights a man 
gathers in the close approach of death and the swift, 
delicious return to safety and enlarging powers I 
hardly care to speak. To a physician, it is simply 
invaluable to have known in his own person pain, 
and to have been at close quarters with his constant 
enemy, and come off only wounded from the contest. 
In the anxiety about you is read anew what you look 
upon in other households every day, and perhaps with 
a too accustomed eye. And as to pain, I am almost 
ready to say that the physician who has not felt it 
is imperfectly educated. It were easy to dwell on this 
aspect of convalescence, but the mental state of one 
on the way to health is not favorable to connected 
thought. It is more grateful to lie in the sun, at 
the window, and watch the snow-birds on the ice-clad 
maoles across the way, and now and then, day after 


S. Weir Mitchell 

day, to jot down the thoughts that hop about one's 
brain like the friendly birds on the mail-clad twigs. 

I make no apology for the disconnectedness of 
my reflections, but turn gladly to my records of the 
joyous and less grave observations which the pass- 
ing hours brought me. Much as I have seen of 
disease and recoveries in all manner of men and 
women, the chance to observe them in my own person 
presented me with many little novel facts of interest. 
I find in my brief notes of this well-remembered time 
many records of the extraordinary acuteness won for 
a while bv the senses. 

Xot dubious, but, alas ! brief, is the gain which 
the sensorium acquires in this delightfully instructive 
passage out of death's shadow into certain sunshine. 
In my own case there was a rapid exfoliation, as we 
call it, of the skin, a loss and renewal of the outer 
layer of the cuticle. As a result of this, the sense 
of touch became for a while more acute, and was at 
times unpleasantly delicate. This seemed to me, as 
I first thought of its cause, a mere mechanical result, 
but I incline to suspect now that it was in a measure 
due to a true increase in capacity to feel, because I 
found also that the sister sense of pain was height- 
ened. Slight things hurt me, and a rather gentle 
pinch gave undue discomfort. No doubt a part of 
this was owing to my having taken a good deal of 
opium, and then abruptly laid it aside. As I have 
elsewhere stated, this is apt to leave the nerves over- 



sensitive for a season. The sense of hearing seemed 
to me to be less wide awake. I did not hear better, 
but high notes were for a while most unpleasant. 
The sense of taste grew singularly appreciative for 
a time, and made every meal a joyful occasion. The 
simplest food had distinct flavors. As for a glass of 
old Madeira, — a demijohned veteran of many ripen- 
ing summers, — I recall to this day with astonishment 
the wonderful thing it was, and how it went over 
the tongue in a sort of procession of tastes, and what 
changeful bouquets it left in my mouth, — a strange 
variety of varying impressions, like the play of colors. 
In these days of more unspiritual health and coarser 
sense I am almost ashamed to say what pleasure I 
found in a dish of terrapin. 

The function of smell became for me a source both 
of annoyance and, later on, of pleasure, I smelt 
things no one else could, and more things than I now 
can. The spring came early, and once out of doors 
the swiftly-flitting hours of sensory acuteness brought 
to me on every breeze nameless odors which have no 
being to the common sense, — a sweet, faint confusion 
of scents, some slight, some too intense, — a gamut 
of odors. Usually I have an imperfect capacity to 
apprehend smells, unless they are very positive, and 
it was a curious lesson to learn how intense for the 
time a not perfect function may become. Recent re- 
searches have shown that a drug like mercaptan may 
be used to test the limit of olfactory appreciation. We 


S. Weir Mitchell 

have thus come to know that the capacity to perceive 
an odor is more delicate than our ability to recognize 
light. Probably it is an inconceivable delicacy of the 
sense of smell more than anything else which enables 
animals to find their way in the manner which seems 
to us so utterly mysterious. Yet, even in human 
beings, and not alone in a fortunate convalescence, do 
we see startling illustrations of the possibilities of this 
form of sensorial acuteness. I know of a woman who 
can by the smell at once tell the worn gloves of the 
several people with whom she is most familiar, and I 
also recall a clever choreic lad of fourteen who could 
distinguish when blindfold the handkerchiefs of his 
mother, his father, or himself, just after they have 
been washed and ironed. This test has been made over 
and over, to my satisfaction and surprise. 

If a man could possess in the highest degree and 
in combination all of the possible extremes of sensory 
appreciativeness seen in disease, in hysteria, and in 
the hypnotic state, we should have a being of extraor- 
dinary capacities for observation. Taylor, in his 
" Physical Theory of Another World," a singular and 
half-forgotten book, has set this forth as conceivable 
of the beings of a world to come, and dwelt upon it 
in an ingenious and interesting way. For a long time 
even the inhalation of tobacco-smoke from a friend's 
cigar disturbed my heart, but one day, and it was, 
I fear, long before my physician, and he was wise, 
thought it prudent, I suddenly fell a prey to our lady 



Nicotia. I had been reading listlessly a cruel essay in 
the Atlantic on the wickedness of smoking, and was 
presently seized with a desire to look at King James's 
famous " counterblast " against the weed. One is like 
a spoiled child at these times, and I sent off at once 
for the royal fulmination, which I found dull enough. 
It led to results the monarch could not have dreamed 
of. I got a full-flavored cigar, and had a half- 
hour of worshipful incense-product at the shrine of 
the brown-cheeked lady, — a thing to remember, — and 
which I had leisure enough to repent of in the sleep- 
less night it cost me. 

This new keenness of perception, of taste and touch, 
of smell and sound, belongs also, in the splendid rally 
which the body makes toward health, to the intellectual 
and imaginative sphere of activities. Something of 
the lost gifts of the fairy-land of childhood returns 
to us in fresh aptitude for strange, sweet castle-build- 
ing, as we lie open-eyed, or in power to see, as the 
child sees, what we will when the eyes are closed, — 

Pictures of love and hate, 

Grim battles where no death is. Tournaments, 

Tall castles fair and garden terraces, 

Where the stiff peacock mocks the sunset light. 

And man and maiden whisper tenderly 

A shadowy love where no heart ever breaks, — 

Love whose to-morrow shall be as to-day. 

With the increase of intellectual clearness, within 
a certain range, come, as with the brightened senses, 


S. Weir Mitchell 

certain drawbacks, arising out of the fastidiousness 
which belongs to the changing man just at this time. 
Let him, therefore, be careful what novels he chooses, 
for of all times this is the one for fiction, when we 
are away from the contradictions of the fierce outer 
world, and are in an atmosphere all sun and flowers, 
and pleasant with generous service and thankful joy. 
Be careful what Scheherezade you invite to your couch. 
By an awful rule of this world's life, in all its phases, 
the sharper the zest of enjoyment, the keener the pos- 
sible disgusts may be. I recommend Dumas's books 
at this crisis, but they should be read with acceptance ; 
as stories, their value lying largely in this, that no 
matter who is murdered or what horror occurs, you 
somehow feel no more particular call upon your com- 
passion than is made when you read afresh the ter- 
rible catastrophes of Jack the Giant-Killer. 

A delightful master of style, Robert Louis Steven- 
son, in a recent enumeration of the books which have 
influenced him in life, mentions, as among the most 
charming of characterizations, the older Artagnan of 
the Vicomte de Bragelonne. I feel sure that on the 
sick-bed, of which he does not hesitate to speak, he 
must have learned, as I did, to appreciate this charm- 
ing book. I made acquaintance then, also, with 
what seems to me, however, the most artistic of 
Dumas's works, and one so little known that to name 
it is a benefit, or may be, the Chevalier d'Harmen- 



In the long road towards working health, I must 
have found, as my note-books show, immense leisure, 
and equal capacity to absorb a quantity of fiction, good 
and bad, and to find in some of it things about my 
own art which excited amused comment, and but for 
that would long ago have been forgotten. Among 
the stuff which I more or less listlessly read was an 
astonishing book called " Norwood." It set me to 
thinking, because in this book are recounted many 
things concerning sick or wounded folk, and those 
astonishing surgeons and nurses who are supposed to 
have helped them on to their feet again. The ghastly 
amusement which came to me out of the young lady 
in this volume, who amputates a man's leg, made me 
reflect a little about the mode in which writers of fic- 
tion have dealt with sick people and doctors. I lay 
half awake, and thought over this in no unkindly 
critical mood, 

" With now and then a merry thought, 
And now and then a sad one," 

until I built myself a great literary hospital, such as 
would delight Miss Nightingale. For in it I had a 
Scott ward, and a Dickens ward, and a Bulwer ward, 
and a Thackeray ward, with a very jolly lot of doc- 
tors, such as Drs. Goodenough and Firmin, with the 
Little Sister (out of Philip) and Miss Evangeline to 
take care of the patients, besides cells for Charles 
Readers heroes and heroines, and the apothecary (out 


S. Weir Mitchell 

of Romeo and Juliet) to mix more honest doses than 
he gave to luckless Romeo. 

Should you wander with a critical doctor through 
those ghostly wards, you would see some queerer 
results of battle and fray than ever the doctors observe 
nowadays, — cases I should like to report, it might be : 
poisonings that would have bewildered Orfila, heart- 
diseases that would have astounded Corvisart, and 
those wonderful instances of consumption which ren- 
der that most painful of diseases so delightful to die 
of — in novels. I have no present intention to weary 
my readers with a clinic in those crowded wards, but 
it will ease my soul a little if I may say my say in 
a general fashion about the utter absurdities of most 
of these pictures of disease and death-beds. In older 
times the sickness of a novel was merely a feint to 
gain time in the story or account for a non-appearance, 
and the doctor made very brief show upon the stage. 
Since, however, the growth of realism in literary art, 
the temptation to delineate exactly the absolute facts 
of disease has led authors to dwell too freely on the 
details of sickness. So long as they dealt in generali- 
ties their way was clear enough. Of old a man was 
poisoned and done for. To-day we deal in symptoms, 
and follow science closely in our use of poisons. Mr. 
Trollope's " Gemma " is an instance in point, where 
every one will feel that the spectacle of the heroine 
going seasick to death, owing to the administration 
of tartar emetic, is as disgusting and inartistic a 



method as fiction presents. Why not have made it 
croton oil? More and worse of this hideous realism 
is to be found in About's books, such, for instance, as 
" Germaine " ; but from which censure I like to ex- 
clude the rollicking fun of " Le nez d'un Notaire." 
As to the recent realistic atrocities of Zola, and 
even of Tolstoi, a more rare singer, if we exclude 
his disgusting drama of peasant life, I prefer to say 

As to blunders in the science of poisons I say little. 
The novelist is a free lance, and chooses his own 
weapons; but I cannot help remarking that, if recent 
investigators are to be trusted, one unlucky female, at 
least, must be still alive, for a novelist relates that 
she was done to death by the internal taking of a dose 
of rattlesnake venom. I hope when I am to be poi- 
soned this mode may be employed. She might as well 
have drunk a glass of milk. That book was a queer 
one to me after this catastrophe : the woman ought to 
be dead and could not be. 

The difficulty of the modern novelist in giving 
symptoms and preserving the entire decorum of his 
pages has amused me a little. Depend upon it, he 
had best fight shy of these chronic illnesses : they make 
queer reading to a doctor who knows what sick people 
are ; and above all does this advice apply to death-beds. 
As a rule, folks get very horrible at such times, and 
are a long while in dying, with few of their wits about 
them at the last. But in novels people die marvellously 


S. Weir Mitchell 

possessed of their faculties ; or, if they are shot, always 
jump into the air exactly as men never do in fact. 

Just here, concerning wounds, a question occurs 
to me : The heroes who have to lose a limb — a common 
thing in novels since the w r ar — always come back with 
one arm, and never w r ith a lost leg. Is it more ro- 
mantic to get rid of one than of the other? — con- 
sidering also that a one-armed embrace of the weep- 
ing waiting lady-love must be so utterly unsatisfactory. 

But enough of the patients. Among them I think 
I like Pendennis the best, and consider little Dombey 
and Nell the most delightfully absurd. And as to the 
doctors. Some of them have absolutely had the high 
promotion to be the heroes of a whole book. Had 
not one, nay, two, a novel to themselves? There is 
delightful Dr. Antonio, not enough of a doctor to call 
down on him my professional wrath. As to Dr. Good- 
enough, he has been in our family a long while, — 
on the shelf (God bless him!), — and attended, we re- 
member, our friend Colonel Newcome in that death- 
bed matchless in art since Falstaff babbled life away. 
Yet, after all, he is not a doctor so much as a man 
charmingly drawn. 

There are in novels many good portraits of law- 
yers, from Pleydell to Tulkinghorn. Whether fair 
or unjust as pictures, I am scarce able to judge, 
although I believe that some of them have been rec- 
ognized by our legal brethren as sufficiently exact. 
While, however we have plenty of characters which 



for his purpose the novelist labels M.D., there seems 
to have been some insuperable difficulty in evolving 
for artistic use a doctor who shall seem at home, as 
such, among the other characters of the novel,— one, 
at least, who shall appear to any reasonable degree like 
a doctor to those who really know the genus doctor 
thoroughly. Save Lydgate, no doctor in fiction an- 
swers this critical demand, or seems anything to me 
but a very stiff lay figure from the moment he is 
called upon to bring his art into the story, or to figure, 
except as an unprofessional personage. 

Nor does this arise from poverty of types in the 
tribe of physicians. The training of a doctor's life pro- 
duces the most varied effects for good or evil, as may 
chance, upon the human natures submitted to its dis- 
cipline, so that I think any thoughtful medical man 
will tell you that there is a more notable individuality 
among his brethren in middle life than among most 
of the people he encounters. As for the novelist's 
effort — an inartistic one, it seems to me — to bring on 
his stage representations of some especial kind of 
doctor, I have only a grim smile to give, remembering 
Mr. Reade's grewsome medico in " Hard Cash," — a 
personation meant, I suppose, to present to the public 
a certain irregular London doctor, but which, to the 
minds of most physicians, reads like an elaborate ad- 
vertisement of the man in question. 

Sir Bulwer Lytton's renderings of a homoeopath 
and a water-cure specialist are open to the same charge, 

6 4 

S. Weir Mitchell 

and could only have been successful in the hands of 
a master. 

There are at least two doctors in Balzac's novels. 
Rastignac, man of fashion and science, is drawn with 
the master's usual skill, but he is not a doctor. His 
art has no prominence. It is not shown how his pe- 
culiarities influenced his work, nor how his art, and 
its use, altered or modified the man. " The Country 
Doctor/' by the same strong hand, is far more near 
my ideal of what this portraiture should be than any 
other known to me in French literature. The humor- 
ous aspects of a medical life in the provinces of France 
are nicely handled in Jules Sandeau's " Doctor Her- 
beau," but the study, however neat and pleasing, is 

Wander where you may, in the drama or the novel, 
you will still find, I think, that the character of the 
physician awaits in its interesting varieties competent 

Shakespeare has left us no finished portrait of a 
doctor. Moliere caricatured him. Thackeray failed 
to draw him, and generally in novels he is merely a 
man who is labelled " Doctor." The sole exception 
known to me is the marvellous delineation of Lydgate 
in " Middlemarch." He is all over the physician, his 
manner, his sentiments, his modes of thought, but he 
stands alone in fiction. How did that great mistress 
of her art learn all of physicians which enabled her 
to leave us this amazingly truthful picture? Her life 



gives us no clue, and when I asked her husband, 
George Lewes, to explain the matter, he said that he 
did not know, and that she knew no more of this than 
of how she had acquired her strangely complete knowl- 
edge of the low turf people she had drawn in the same 
book, and with an almost equal skill and truth to 

It were easy, I fancy, to point out how the doctor's 
life and training differ from those of all the other 
professions, and how this must act on peculiar in- 
dividualities for the deepening of some lines and the 
erasure of others; but this were too elaborate a study 
for my present gossiping essay, and may await an- 
other day and a less lazy mood. 

If any one should be curious to see what are the 
modifying circumstances in a physician's life which 
strongly tend to weaken or to reinforce character, I 
recommend a delightful little address, quite too brief, 
by Dr. Emerson, the son of the great essayist. It is 
unluckily out of print and difficult to obtain. If you 
would see in real lives what sturdy forms of per- 
sonal distinctness the doctor may assume, there is 
no better way than to glance over some half-dozen 
medical biographies. Read, for instance, delightful 
John Brown's sketch of Sydenham and of his own 
father, or George Wilson's life of John Reid, the 
physiologist, whom community of suffering must have 
made dear to that gentle intelligence, and whose days 
ended in tragic horror such as sensational fiction may 


S. Weir Mitchell 

scarcely match ; or, for an individuality as well defined 
and more pleasing, read Pichot's life of Sir Charles 
Bell, or one of the most remarkable of biographies, 
Mr. Morley's life of Jerome Cardan. 

I am reminded as I write how rare are the really 
good medical biographies. The autobiographies are 
better. Ambrose Pare's sketches of his own life, which 
was both eventful and varied, are scattered through 
his treatise on surgery, and he does not gain added 
interest in the hands of Malgaigne. Our own Sims's 
book about himself is worth reading, but is too realistic 
for the library table, yet what a strangely valuable 
story it is of the struggle of genius up to eminent 
success. But these are the heroes of a not unheroic 
profession, and I had almost forgotten to set among 
them, as a study of character, the life of the tranquil, 
high-minded Jenner, the country doctor who swept the 
scars of smallpox from the faces of the world of men, 
and beside him John Hunter, his friend, impulsive, 
quick of temper, enthusiastic, an intensely practical 
man of science. These are illustrations of men of the 
most varied types, whose works show their charac- 
teristics, and who would, in the end, I fancy, have been 
very different had fate set them other tasks in life, for 
if the sculptor makes the statue, we may rest quite sure 
that the statue he makes influences the man who 
made it. 

These, I have said, are our heroes, but I still think 
there remains to be written the simple, honest, dutiful 

6 7 


story of an intelligent, thoughtful, every-day doctor, 
such as will pleasantly and fitly open to laymen some 
true conception of the life he leads, its cares, its trials, 
its influences on himself and others and its varied 
rewards. John Brown got closest to it in that sketch 
of his father, and in her delicately-drawn " Country 
Doctor " Miss Jewett has done us gentle service. But 
my doctor would differ somewhat in all lands, because 
nationality and social conventions have their influence 
on us as on other men, as any one may observe who 
compares the clergymen of the Episcopal Church in 
America with those of England. 

The man who deals with the physician in fiction 
would have to consider this class of facts, for social 
conventions have assigned to the physician in England, 
at least, a very different position from that which he 
holds with us, where he has no social superior, and' 
is usually in all small communities, and in some larger 
ones, the most eminent personage and the man of 
largest influence. 

In the rage for novel characters the lady doctor 
has of late assumed her place in fiction. Lots of wives 
have been picked up among hospital nurses, especially 
since the Crimean war, and since other women than 
Sisters of Charity got into the business, and so made 
to seem probable this pleasing termination of an ill- 
ness. There was a case well known to me where a 
young officer simulated delirium tremens in order to 
get near to a Sister of Charity. If ever you had seen 


S. Weir Mitchell 

the lady, you would not have wondered at his mad- 
ness; and should any author desire to utilize this in- 
cident, let him comprehend that the order of Sisters 
of Charity admits of its members leaving the ranks 
by marriage, theirs being a secular order ; so that here 
are the chances for a story of the freshest kind. As 
for the lady doctor in fiction, her advantages would 
be awful to contemplate in sickness, when we are weak 
and fevered, and absurdly grateful for a newly-beaten 
pillow or a morsel of ice. But imagine the awful 
temptation of having your heart auscultated. Let us 
dismiss the subject while the vision of Beranger's Ange 
Gardienne flits before us as De Grandville drew her. 

I have not now beside me Howells's " Doctor 
Breen's Practice." It is a remarkable attempt to do 
justice to a very difficult subject, for there are two 
physicians to handle, male and female, not, I think, 
after their kind. " Doctor Zay," by Miss Phelps, 
makes absurd a book which is otherwise very attrac- 
tive. This young woman doctor, a homoeopath, sets 
a young man's leg, and falls in love with him after a 
therapeutic courtship, in which he wooes and she pre- 

The woman doctor is, I suspect, still available as 
material for the ambitious novelist, but let him beware 
how he deals with her. 

6 9 

Out-Door and Camp-Life for Women 

A good many years ago I wrote a short paper. 1 
meant to capture popular attention, under the title of 
u Camp Cure." I have reason to think that it was of 
use, but I have been led to regret that I did not see 
when it was written that what I therein urged as de- 
sirable for men was not also in a measure attainable 
by many women. I wish now to correct my error of 
omission, and to show not only that in our climate 
camp-life in some shape can be readily had, but also 
what are its joys and what its peculiar advantages. 2 
My inclination to write anew on this subject is made 
stronger by two illustrations which recur to my mind, 
and which show how valuable may be an entire out- 
door life, and how free from risks even for the invalid. 
The lessons of the great war were not lost upon some 
of us, who remember the ease with which recoveries 
were made in tents, but single cases convince more 
than any statement of these large and generalized re- 

1 See "Camp Cure," page 167.— Editor. 

2 "Nurse and Patient," and "Camp Cure," by S. Weir Mitchell. 
J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia. 


5. Weir Mitchell 

I knew a sick and very nervous woman who had 
failed in many hands to regain health of mind. I had 
been able to restore to her all she needed in the way 
of blood and tissue, but she remained, as before, al- 
most helplessly nervous. Wealth made all resources 
easy, and yet I had been unable to help her. At last 
I said to her, " If you were a man I think I could 
cure you." I then told her how in that case I w r ould 
ask a man to live. " I will do anything you desire," 
she said, and this was what she did. With an intel- 
ligent companion, she secured two well-known, trusty 
guides, and pitched her camp by the lonely waters of 
a Western lake in May, as soon as the weather al- 
lowed of the venture. With two good wall-tents for 
sleeping- and sitting-rooms, with a log hut for her 
men a hundred yards away and connected by a wire 
telephone, she began to make her experiment. A little 
stove w r armed her sitting-room at need, and once a 
fortnight a man went to the nearest town and brought 
her books. Letters she avoided, and her family agreed 
to notify her at once of any real occasion for her 
presence. Even newspapers were shut out, and thus 
she began her new life. Her men shot birds and deer, 
and the lake gave her black bass, and with these and 
well-chosen canned vegetables and other stores she did 
well enough as to food. The changing seasons brought 
her strange varieties of flowers, and she and her friend 
took industriously to botany, and puzzled out their 
problems unaided save by books. Very soon rowing, 


Out- do or Life 

fishing, and, at last, shooting were added to her re- 
sources. Before August came she could walk for 
miles with a light gun, and could stand for hours 
in wait for a deer. Then she learned to swim, 
and found also refined pleasure in what I call word- 
sketching, as to which I shall by and by speak. Pho- 
tography was a further gain, taken up at my sug- 
gestion. In a word, she led a man's life until the 
snow fell in the fall and she came back to report, a 
thoroughly well woman. 

A more notable case was that of a New England 
lady, who was sentenced to die of consumption by at 
least two competent physicians. Her husband, himself 
a doctor, made for her exactly the same effort at relief 
which was made in the case I have detailed, except 
that when snow fell he had built a warm log cabin, 
and actually spent the winter in the woods, teaching 
her to live out in the air and to w r alk on snow-shoes. 
She has survived at least one of her doctors, and is, 
I believe, to this day a wholesome and vigorous wife 
and mother. 

What large wealth did to help in these two cases 
may be managed with much smaller means. All 
through the White Mountains, in summer, you may see 
people, a whole family often, with a wagon, going 
from place to place, pitching their tents, eating at 
farm-houses or hotels, or managing to cook at less 
cost the food they buy. Our sea-coast presents like 
chances. With a good tent or two, which costs little, 


S. Weir Mitchell 

you may go to unoccupied beaches, or by inlet or 
creek, and live for little. I very often counsel young 
people to hire a safe open or decked boat, and, with 
a good tent, to live in the sounds along the Jersey coast, 
going hither and thither, and camping where it is 
pleasant, for, with our easy freedom as to land, none 
object When once a woman — and I speak now of 
the healthy — has faced and overcome her dread of 
sun and mosquitoes, the life becomes delightful. The 
Adirondacks, the Alleghanies, and the Virginia moun- 
tains afford like chances, for which, as these are in 
a measure remote, there must be a somewhat more 
costly organization. I knew well a physician who 
every summer deserted his house and pitched tents 
on an island not over three miles from home, and there 
spent the summer with his family, so that there are 
many ways of doing the same thing. 

As to the question of expense, there is no need to 
say much. All over our sparsely-inhabited land places 
wild enough are within easy reach, and the journey 
to reach them need not be long. Beyond this, tent- 
life is, of course, less costly than the hotel or boarding- 
house, in which such numbers of people swelter 
through their summers. As to food, it is often need- 
ful to be within reach of farm-houses or hotels, and 
all kind of modifications of the life I advise are pos- 

As to inconveniences, they are, of course, many, 
but, with a little ingenuity, it is easy to make tent-life 


Out-door Life 

comfortable, and none need dread them. Any book 
on camp-life will tell how to meet or avoid them, and 
to such treatises I beg to refer the reader who wishes 
to experiment on this delightful mode of gypsying. 

The class of persons who find it easy to reach the 
most charming sites and to secure the help of compe- 
tent guides is, as I have said in another place, in- 
creasing rapidly. The desire also for such a life is 
also healthfully growing, so that this peculiarly Ameri- 
can mode of getting an outing is becoming more and 
more familiar. It leads to our young folks indulging 
in all sorts of strengthening pursuits. It takes them 
away from less profitable places, and the good it does 
need not be confined to the boys. Young women may 
swim, fish, and row like their brothers, but the life 
has gains and possibilities, as to which I would like 
to say something more. In a well-ordered camp you 
may be sure of good food and fair cooking. To sleep 
and live in the air is an insurance against what we call 
taking cold. Where nature makes the atmospheric 
changes, they are always more gradual and kindly than 
those we make at any season when we go from street 
to house or house to street. 

My brothers during the war always got colds when 
at home on leave^ and those who sleep in a chinky cabin 
or tent soon find that they do not suffer and that they 
have an increasing desire for air and openness. 

To live out of doors seems to be a little matter in 
the way of change, and that it should have remark- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

able moral and intellectual values does not appear 
credible to such as have not had this experience. 

Yet, in fact, nothing so dismisses the host of little 
nervousnesses with which house-caged women suffer as 
this free life. Cares, frets, worries, and social annoy- 
ances disappear, and in the woods and by the waters 
we lose, as if they were charmed away, our dislikes 
or jealousies, all the base, little results of the struggle 
for bread or place. At home, in cities, they seem so 
large; here, in the gentle company of constant sky and 
lake and stream, they seem trivial, and we cast them 
away as easily as we throw aside some piece of worn- 
out and useless raiment. 

The man who lives out of doors awhile acquires 
better sense of moral proportions, and thinks patiently 
and not under stress, making tranquil companions of 
his worthy thoughts. This is a great thing, not to be 
hurried. There seems to me always more time out of 
doors than in houses, and if you have intellectual 
problems to settle, the cool quiet of the woods or the 
lounging comfort of the canoe, or to be out under " the 
huge and thoughtful night," has many times seemed 
to me helpful. One gets near realities out of doors. 
Thought is more sober; one becomes a better friend to 
one's self. 

As to the effect of out-door life on the imaginative 
side of us, much may be said. Certainly some books 
get fresh flavors out of doors, and you see men or 
women greedily turn to reading and talking over verse 


Out-door Life 

who never dream of it when at home. I am tempted 
to mention the poets, and even the other authors who 
gain a kindly rubric for their work from the gentle 
company of lake and wood and stream. I should 
frankly name Walt Whitman and Thoreau, and pause 
pretty soon in wonder at the small number of poets 
who suggest out-door life as their source of inspira- 
tion. A good many of them — read as you lie in a 
birch canoe or seated on a stump in the woods — shrink 
to well-bred, comfortable parlor bards, who seem to you 
to have gotten their nature-lessons through plate-glass 
windows. The test is a sharp one, and will leave out 
some great names and let in some hardly known, or 
almost forgotten. Books to be read out of doors would 
make a curious catalogue, and would vary, as such lists 
must, with every thoughtful reader, while some would 
smile, perhaps with reason ; at the idea of any such 
classification. Certainly all would name Wordsworth, 
and a few would add Clough, whilst the out-door plays 
of Shakespeare would come in, and we should soon be 
called on to feel that for this sort of congenial open- 
air poetic company w T e have still to fall back on the 
vast resources of English verse. Somehow, as yet, our 
own poets have not gotten fully into imaginative re- 
lation with what is peculiar in our own flowers, trees, 
and skies. This does not lessen our joy in the masters 
of English verse, because, of course, much of what they 
have sung has liberal application in all lands : yet is 
there something which we lose in them for lack of 

7 6 

S. Weir Mitchell 

familiar knowledge of English lanes and woods, of 
English flowers and trees. A book of the essentially- 
American nature — poems found here and there in many 
volumes — would be pleasant, for surely we have had 
no one poet as to whom it is felt that he is absolutely 
desirable as the interpretive poetic observer who has 
positive claims to go with us as a friendly bookmate 
in our wood or water wanderings. I have shrunk, as 
will have been seen, from the dangerous venture of en- 
larging my brief catalogue. What I have just now 
spoken of as one's bookmates will appear in very dif- 
ferent lights according to the surroundings in which 
we seek to enjoy their society. If, as to this matter, 
any one doubts me, and has the good luck to camp out 
long, and to have a variety of books of verse and 
prose, very soon, if dainty of taste, he will find that 
the artificial flavoring of some books is unpleasantly 
felt; but, after all, one does not read very much when 
living thus outside of houses. Books are then, of 
course, well to have, but rather as giving one texts 
for thoughts and talk than as preachers, counsellors, 
jesters, or friends. 

In my own wood-life or canoe journeys I used to 
wonder how little I read or cared to read. One has 
nowadays many resources. If you sketch, no matter 
how badly, it teaches and even exacts that close ob- 
servation of nature which brings in its train much that 
is to be desired. Photography is a means of record, 
now so cheaply available as to be at the disposal of 


Out-door Life 

all, and there is a great charm of a winter evening 
in turning over sketch or photograph to recall anew 
the pleasant summer days. Beyond all this, there is 
botany. I knew a lady who combined it happily and 
ingeniously with photography, and so preserved pic- 
tures of plants in their flow T ering state. When you 
are out under starry skies with breadth of heaven in 
view, astronomy with an opera-glass — and Galileo's 
telescope was no better — is an agreeable temptation 
which the cheap and neat charts of the skies now to 
be readily obtained make very interesting. 

I should advise any young woman, indeed, any 
one who has the good chance to live a camp-life, or 
to be much in the country, to keep a diary, not of 
events but of things. I find myself that I go back 
to my old note-books with increasing pleasure. 

To make this resource available something more 
than the will to do it is necessary. Take any nice young 
girl, who is reasonably educated, afloat in your canoe 
with you, and ask her what she sees. As a rule she has 
a general sense that yonder yellow bank, tree-crowned 
above the rippled water, is pleasant. The sky is blue, 
the sun falling behind you. She says it is beautiful 
and has a vague sense of enjoyment, and will carry 
away with her little more than this. Point out to her 
that the trees above are some of them deciduous pop- 
lars, or maples, and others sombre groups of pines and 
silky tamarack with a wonder of delicate tracery. 
Show her that the sun against the sloped yellow bank 


S. Weir Mitchell 

has covered the water with a shining changeful orange 
light, through which gleam the mottled stones below, 
and that the concave curve of every wave which faces 
us concentrates for the eye an unearthly sapphire the 
reflex of the darkening blue above us. Or a storm is 
on us at the same place. She is fearless as to the 
ducking from which even her waterproof will hardly 
protect. The clouds gather, the mists trail on the 
hills, ragged mosses on the trees hang in wet festoons 
of gray, and look in the misty distance like number- 
less cascades. It rains at last, a solid down-pour; 
certain tree-trunks grow black, and the shining beech 
and birch and poplar get a more vivid silver on their 
wet boles. The water is black like ink. It is no 
longer even translucent, and overhead the red scourges 
of the lightning fly, and the great thunder-roar of 
smitten clouds rolls over us from hill to hill. 

All these details you teach her and more, and 
paddle home with a mental cargo of fresh joys and 
delicious memories. My young friend is intelligent 
and clever, but she has never learned to observe. If 
she wants to know how, there is a book will help her. 
Let her take with her Ruskin's " Modern Painters/' It 
will teach her much, not all. Nor do I know of any 
other volume which will tell her more. 1 Despite its 
faults, it has so many lessons in the modes of minute 

1 "Frondes Agrestes," Ruskin, is a more handy book than "Modern 
Painters," but is only selections from the greater volumes recommended. 
"Deucalion" is yet harder reading, but will repay the careful reader. 


Out-door Life 

study of outside nature that it becomes a valuable 
friend. Although ostensibly written to aid artistic criti- 
cism, it does far more than this and yet not all. Other 
books which might seem desirable are less so because 
they are still more distinctly meant to teach or assist 
artists or amateurs. What is yet wanted is a little 
treatise on the methods of observing exterior nature. 
Above all it should be adapted to our own woods, 
skies, and waters. What to look for as a matter of 
pleasure, and how to see and record it, is a thing apart 
from such observation as leads to classification, and is 
scientific in its aims. It is somewhat remote also from 
the artist's study, which is a more complex business, 
and tends to learn what can be rendered by pencil or 
brush and what cannot. Its object at first is merely 
to give intelligent joy to the senses, to cultivate them 
into acuteness, and to impress on the mind such records 
as they ought to give us at their best. 

Presuming the pupil to be like myself, powerless 
to use the pencil, she is to learn how to put on paper 
in words what she sees. The result will be what I 
may call word-sketches. Observe these are not to be 
for other eyes. They make her diary of things seen 
and worthy of note. Neither are they to be efforts to 
give elaborate descriptions. In the hands of a mas- 
ter, such use of words makes a picture in which often 
he sacrifices something, as the artist does, to get 
something else, and strives chiefly to leave on the mind 
one dominant emotion just as did the scene thus por- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

trayed. A few words may do this or it may be an 
elaborate work. The gift is a rare and great one. 
The word-paintings of Ruskin hang forever in one's 
mental gallery, strong, true, poetical, and capable of 
stirring you as the scenes described would have done, 
nay, even more, for a great word-master has stood 
interpretative between you and nature. 

Miss Bronte was mistress of this art. Blackmore 
has it also. In some writers it is so lightly managed 
as to approach the sketch, and is more suggestive than 
fully descriptive. To see what I mean read the first 
few chapters of " Miss Angel," by Anna Thackeray. 
But a sketch by a trained and poetical observer is one 
thing; a sketch by a less gifted person is quite an- 
other. My pupil must be content with the simplest, 
most honest, unadorned record of things seen. Her 
training must look to this only. 

What she should first seek to do is to be methodi- 
cal and accurate and by and by fuller. If wise she 
will first limit herself to small scenes, and try to get 
notes of them somewhat in this fashion. She is, we 
suppose, on the bank of a stream. Her notes run as 
follows : 

Date, time of day, place. Hills to either side and 
their character; a guess at their height; a river be- 
low, swift, broken, or placid; the place of the sun, 
behind, in front, or overhead. Then the nature of the 
trees and how the light falls on them or in them, ac- 
cording to their kind. Next come color of wave and 


Out- do or Life 

bank and sky, with questions as to water-tints and 
their causes. Last of all, and here she must be simple 
and natural, what mood of mind does it all bring to 
her, for every landscape has its capacity to leave you 
with some general sense of its awe, its beauty, its sad- 
ness, or its joy fulness. 

Try this place again at some other hour, or in 
a storm, or under early morning light, and make like 
notes. If she should go on at this pleasant work, 
and one day return to the same spot, she will wonder 
how much more she has now learned to see. 

Trees she will find an enchanting study. Let her 
take a group of them and endeavor to say on paper 
what makes each species so peculiar. The form, 
color, and expression of the boles are to be noted. A 
reader may smile at the phrase " expression/' but look 
at a tattered old birch, or a silvery young beech-bole, 
" modest and maidenly, clean of limb/' or a lightning- 
scarred pine. Tree-study has advantages because it 
is always within reach. The axe has been so ruth- 
lessly wielded that you must go far into the woods to 
get the best specimens of the pine, and the forests about 
our Maine lakes and in the Adirondacks have been 
sadly despoiled of their aristocrats. To see trees at their 
savage best one must go South, and seek the white- 
oaks of Carolina, the cypress of Florida, but the parks 
of Philadelphia and Baltimore afford splendid studies, 
and so also do the mountains of Virginia. Private 
taste and enterprise is saving already much that will 


S. Weir Mitchell 

be a joy to our children. A noble instance is the great 
wild park with which Colonel Parsons has protected 
the Natural Bridge in Virginia. I saw there an arbor- 
vitae said by botanists to be not less than nine hundred 
years old, a chestnut twenty-six feet in girth at the 
height of my shoulders, and oaks past praise. But 
trees are everywhere, and if my observant pupil likes 
them, let her next note the mode in which the branches 
spread and their proportion to the trunk. State it all 
in the fewest words. It is to be only a help to mem- 
ory. Then she comes to the leaf forms and the mode 
in which they are massed, their dulness or translucency, 
how sunshine affects their brilliancy, as it is above or 
falls laterally at morn or eve. Perhaps she will note, 
too, on which the gray moss grows, and just in what 
forms, and how the mosses or lichens gather on the 
north side of trees and on what trees. 

I may help my pupil if, like an artist teacher, 
I give one or two illustrations, copied verbatim from 
my note-books. The first was written next morn- 
ing, as it is a brief record of a night scene. 

Time, July 21, 1887, 9 p.m. Ristigouche River, 
New Brunswick, Canada. Black darkness. Hill out- 
lines nearly lost in sky. River black, with flashing 
bits of white rapid; banks have grayish rocks, and so 
seem to be nearer than the dark stream limits. Sky 
looks level with hill-tops. Water seems to come up 
close. Effect of being in a concave valley of water, 
and all things draw in on me. Sense of awe. Camp- 


Out-door Life 

fire's red glare on water. Sudden opening lift of sky. 
Hills recede. Water-level falls. This is a barren, un- 
adorned sketch, but it seems to tell the thing. 

Or this, for a change. Newport. A beach. Time, 
August i, 1887; 4 p.m. About me cleft rocks, cleav- 
age straight through the embedded pebbles. Tones 
ruddy browns and grays. Gray beach. Sea-weed in 
heaps, deep pinks and purples. Boisterous waves, 
loaded with reddish sea-weed, blue, with white crests, 
torn off in long ribbons by wind. Curious reds and 
blues as waves break, carrying sea-weed. Fierce gale 
off land. Dense fog, sun above it and to right. Every- 
where yellow light. Sea strange dingy yellow. Leaves 
an unnatural green. Effect weird. Sense of unusual- 
ness. 1. 

Of course, such study of nature leads the intelligent 
to desire to know why the cleaved rock shows its sharp 
divisions as if cut by a knife, why yellow light gives 
such strangeness of tints, and thus draws on my pupil 
to larger explanatory studies. So much the better. 

If when she bends over a foot-square area of moul- 
dered tree-trunk, deep in the silence of a Maine wood, 
she has a craving to know the names and ways of the 
dozen mosses she notes, of the minute palm-like 
growths, of the odd toadstools, it will not lessen the joy 
this liliputian representation of a tropical jungle gives 
to her. Nor will she like less the splendor of sunset 
tints on water to know the secrets of the pleasant tricks 
of refraction and reflection. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

I do not want to make too much of a small matter. 
No doubt many people do this kind of thing, but in 
most volumes of travel it is easy to see that the de- 
scriptions lack method, and show such want of train- 
ing in observation as would not be noticeable had their 
authors gone through the modest studies I am now in- 
viting my pupil to make. 

Her temptation will be to note most the large, the 
grotesque, or the startling aspects of nature. In time 
these will be desirable as studies, but at first she must 
try smaller and limited sketches. They are as difficult, 
but do not change as do the grander scenes and ob- 
jects. I knew a sick girl, who, bedfast for years, used 
to amuse herself with what her windows and an opera- 
glass commanded in the way of sky and foliage. The 
buds in spring-time, especially the horse-chestnuts, 
were the subject of quite curious notes, and cloud- 
forms an endless source of joy and puzzle to describe. 
One summer a great effort was made, and she was 
taken to the country, and a day or two later carried 
down near a brook, where they swung her hammock. 
I found her quite busy a week later, and happy in 
having discovered that the wave-curves over a rock 
were like the curves of some shells. My pupil will 
soon learn, as she did, that a good opera-glass is in- 
dispensable. Let any one who has not tried it look 
with such a glass at sunset-decked water in motion. 
I am sure they will be startled by its beauty, and this 
especially if the surface be seen from a boat, because 


Out-door Life 

merely to look down on water is to make no ac- 
quaintance with its loveliness. A scroll of paper to 
limit the view and cut out side-lights also intensifies 

The materials my pupil is to use are words, and 
words only. Constant dissatisfaction with the little 
they can tell us is the fate of all who use them. The 
sketcher, the great word-painter, and even the poet 
feels this when, like Browning, he seems so to suffer 
from their weakness as to be troubled into audacious 
employment of the words that will not obey his will, 
torment them as he may. Yet, as my pupil goes on, 
she will find her vocabulary growing, and will become 
more and more accurate in her use and more ingenious 
in her combination of words to give her meaning. As 
she learns to feel strongly — for she will in time — her 
love will give her increasing power both to see and 
to state what she sees, because this gentle passion for 
nature in all her moods is like a true-love affair, and 
grows by what it feeds upon. 

When we come to sketch in words the rare and 
weird effects, the storm, the sunsets that seem not of 
earth, the cascade, or the ravage of the " windfall/' 
it is wise not to be lured into fanciful word-painting, 
and the temptation is large. Yet the simplest ex- 
pression of facts is then and for such rare occasions 
the best, and often by far the most forceful. 

I venture, yet again, to give from a note-book of 
last year a few lines as to a sunset. I was on a steam- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

yacht awaiting the yachts which were racing for the 
Newport cup. 

August 6, time, sunset ; level sea ; light breeze ; fire- 
red sun on horizon; vast masses of intensely-lighted 
scarlet clouds; a broad track of fiery red on water; 
three yachts, with all sail set, coming over this sea of 
red towards us. Their sails are a vivid green. The 
vast mass of reds and scarlets give one a strange sense 
of terror as if something would happen. I could go 
on to expand upon " this color such as shall be in 
heaven, ,? and on the sails which seemed to be green, 
but for the purpose of a sketch and to refresh the 
traitor memory in the future, the lines I wrote are 
enough and are yet baldly simple. 

Out of this practice grow, as I have said, love of 
accuracy, larger insights, careful valuation of words, 
and also an increasing and more intelligent love of art 
in all its forms; nor will all these gains in the power 
to observe be without practical value in life. 

I trust that I have said enough to tempt others to 
try each in their way to do what has been for me 
since boyhood a constant summer amusement. 


Part II 






We beg to tender grateful acknowledgment to 
author and publisher for the use, in Part II, of essays 
from " Nurse and Patient " and " Wear and Tear," by 
S. Weir Mitchell, copyright, 1877 and 1887, by J. B. 
Lippincott & Company. 



or Hints for the Overworked 

Many years ago 1 I found occasion to set before 
the readers of Lippincott's Magazine certain thoughts 
concerning work in America, and its results. Some- 
what to my surprise, the article attracted more notice 
than usually falls to the share of such papers, and since 
then, from numerous sources, I have had the pleasure 
to learn that my words of warning have been of good 
service to many thoughtless sinners against the laws 
of labor and of rest. I have found, also, that the views 
then set forth as to the peculiar difficulties of mental 
and physical work in this country are in strict accord- 
ance with the personal experience of foreign scholars 
who have cast their lots among us ; while some of our 
best teachers have thanked me for stating, from a doc- 
tor's standpoint, the evils which their own experience 
had taught them to see in our present mode of tasking 
the brains of the younger girls. 

I hope, therefore, that I am justified in the belief 

1 In 1871. 


Wear and Tear 

that in its new and larger form my little tract may 
again claim attention from such as need its lessons. 
Since it was meant only for these, I need not excuse 
myself to physicians for its simplicity; while I trust 
that certain of my brethren may find in it enough of 
original thought to justify its reappearance, as its sta- 
tistics were taken from manuscript notes and have been 
printed in no scientific journal. 

I have called these Hints Wear and Tear, because 
this title clearly and briefly points out my meaning. 
Wear is a natural and legitimate result of lawful use, 
and is what we all have to put up with as the result of 
years of activity of brain and body. Tear is another 
matter: it comes of hard or evil usage of body or 
engine, of putting things to wrong purposes, using 
a chisel for a screw-driver, a penknife for a gimlet. 
Long strain, or the sudden demand of strength from 
weakness, causes tear. Wear comes of use; tear of 

i The sermon of which these words are the text has 
been preached many times in many ways to congrega- 
tions for whom the Dollar Devil had always a more 
winning eloquence. Like many another man who has 
talked wearily to his fellows with an honest sense of 
what they truly need, I feel how vain it is to hope for 
many earnest listeners. Yet here and there may be 
men and women, ignorantly sinning against the laws 
by which they should live or should guide the lives of 
others, who will perhaps be willing to heed what one 


S. Weir Mitchell 

unbiased thinker has to say in regard to the dangers 
of the way they are treading with so little knowledge 
as to where it is leading. 

The man who lives an outdoor life, who sleeps 
with the stars visible above him, who wins his bodily 
subsistence at first-hand from the earth and waters, 
is a being who defies rain and sun, has a strange sense 
of elastic strength, may drink if he likes, and may 
smoke all day long, and feel none the worse for it. 
Some such return to the earth for the means of life is 
what gives vigor and developing power to the colon- 
ist of an older race cast on a land like ours. A few 
generations of men living in such fashion store up a 
capital of vitality which accounts largely for the prodi- 
gal activity displayed by their descendants, and made 
possible only by the sturdy contest with Nature which 
their ancestors have waged. That such a life is still 
led by multitudes of our countrymen is what alone 
serves to keep up our pristine force and energy. Are 
we not merely using the interest on these accumula- 
tions of power, but also wastefully spending the capi- 
tal ? From a few we have grown to millions, and al- 
ready in many w r ays the people of the Atlantic coast 
present the peculiarities of an old nation. Have we 
lived too fast? The settlers here, as elsewhere, had 
ample room, and lived sturdily by their own hands, 
little troubled for the most part with those intense com- 
petitions which make it hard to live nowadays and em- 
bitter the daily bread of life. Neither had they the 


Wear and Tear 

thousand intricate problems to solve which perplex 
those who struggle to-day in our teeming city hives. 
Above all, educational wants were limited in kind and 
in degree, and the physical man and woman were what 
the growing state most needed. 

How much and what kind of good came of the 
gradual change in all these matters we well enough 
know. That in one and another way the cruel compe- 
tition for the dollar, the new and exacting habits of 
business, the racing speed which the telegraph and 
railway have introduced into commercial life, the new 
value which great fortunes have come to possess as 
means toward social advancement, and the overeduca- 
tion and overstraining of our young people, have 
brought about some great and growing evils, is what 
is now beginning to be distinctly felt. I should like, 
therefore, at the risk of being tedious, to reexamine 
this question — to see if it be true that the nervous sys- 
tem of certain classes of Americans is being sorely 
overtaxed — and to ascertain how much our habits, our 
modes of work, and, haply, climatic peculiarities, may 
have to do with this state of things. But before ven- 
turing anew upon a subject which may possibly excite 
controversy and indignant comment, let me premise 
that I am talking chiefly of the crowded portions of 
our country, of our great towns, and especially of their 
upper classes, and am dealing with those higher ques- 
tions of mental hygiene of which in general we hear 
but too little. If the strictures I have to make applied 


S. Weir Mitchell 

as fully throughout the land — to Oregon as to New 
England, to the farmer as to the business man, to the 
women of the artisan class as to those socially above 
them — then indeed I should cry, God help us and those 
that are to come after us ! Owing to causes which are 
obvious enough, the physical worker is being better 
and better paid and less and less hardly tasked, while 
just the reverse obtains in increasing ratios for those 
who live by the lower form of brain work ; so that the 
bribe to use the hand is growing daily, and pure me- 
chanical labor, as opposed to that of the clerk, is being 
" leveled upward " with fortunate celerity. 

Before attempting to indicate certain ways in which 
we as a people are overtaxing and misusing the organs 
of thought, I should be glad to have the privilege of 
explaining the terms which it is necessary to use, and 
of pointing out some of the conditions under which 
mental labor is performed. 

The human body carries on several kinds of manu- 
facture, two of which — the evolution of muscular force 
or motion, and intellection with all moral activities — 
alone concern us here. We are somewhat apt to an- 
tagonize these two sets of functions, and to look upon 
the latter, or brain labor, as alone involving the use or 
abuse of the nervous system. But every blow on the 
anvil is as distinctly an act of the nerve centers as are 
the highest mental processes. If this be so, how or 
why is it that excessive muscular exertion — I mean 
such as is violent and continued — does not cause the 


Wear and Tear 

same appalling effects as may be occasioned by a like 
abuse of the nerve-organs in mental actions of various 
kinds? This is not an invariable rule, for, as I may 
point out in the way of illustration hereafter, the 
centers which originate or evolve muscular power do 
sometimes suffer from undue taxation; but it is cer- 
tainly true that when this happens, the evil result is 
rarely as severe or as lasting as w T hen it is the organs 
of mental power that have suffered. 

In either form of work, physical or mental, the 
will acts to start the needed processes, and afterwards 
is chiefly regulative. In the case of bodily labor, the 
spinal nerve centers are most largely called into action. 
Where mental or moral processes are involved, the 
active organs lie within the cranium. As I said just 
now, when we talk of an overtaxed nervous system it 
is usually the brain we refer to, and not the spine; 
and the question therefore arises, Why is it that an 
excess of physical labor is better borne than a like ex- 
cess of mental labor ? The simple answer is, that men- 
tal overwork is harder because as a rule it is closet 
or counting room or at least indoor work — sedentary, 
in a word. The man who is intensely using his brain 
is not collaterally employing any other organs, and 
the more intense his application the less locomotive 
does he become. On the other hand, however a man 
abuses his powers of motion in the way of work, he 
is at all events encouraging that collateral functional 
activity which mental labor discourages: he is quick- 

9 6 

S. Weir Mitchell 

ening the heart, driving the blood through unused 
channels, hastening the breathing and increasing the 
secretions of the skin- — all excellent results, and, even 
if excessive, better than a too incomplete use of these 

But there is more than this in the question. We 
do not know as yet what is the cost in expended ma- 
terial of mental acts as compared with motor manifes- 
tations, and here, therefore, are at fault; because, al- 
though it seems so much slighter a thing to think a 
little than to hit out with the power of an athlete, it 
may prove that the expenditure of nerve material is 
in the former case greater than in the latter. 

When a man uses his muscles, after a time comes 
the feeling called fatigue — a sensation always referred 
to the muscles, and due most probably to the deposit 
in the tissues of certain substances formed during mo- 
tor activity. Warned by this weariness, the man takes 
rest — may indeed be forced to do so; but, unless I 
am mistaken, he who is intensely using the brain does 
not feel in the common use of it any sensation refer- 
able to the organ itself which warns him that he has 
taxed it enough. It is apt, like a well-bred creature, 
to get into a sort of exalted state under the stimulus 
of need, so that its owner feels amazed at the ease of 
its processes and at the sense of zvidc-azvakefiilncss 
and power that accompanies them. It is only after 
very long misuse that the brain begins to have 
means of saying, " I have done enough; " and at this 


Wear and Tear 

stage the warning comes too often in the shape of 
some one of the many symptoms which indicate that 
the organ is already talking with the tongue of 

I do not know how these views will be generally 
received, but I am sure that the personal experience of 
many scholars will decide them to be correct; and 
they serve to make clear why it is that men may not 
know they are abusing the organ of thought until 
it is already suffering deeply, and also wherefore the 
mind may not be as ruthlessly overworked as the legs 
or arms. 

Whenever I have closely questioned patients or 
men of studious habits as to this matter, I have found 
that most of them, when in health, recognized no such 
thing as fatigue in mental action, or else I learned 
that what they took for this was merely that physical 
sense of being tired which arises from prolonged writ- 
ing or constrained positions. The more, I fancy, any 
healthy student reflects on this matter the more clearly 
will he recognize this fact, that very often when his 
brain is at its clearest, he pauses only because his back 
is weary, his eyes aching, or his fingers tired. 

This most important question, as to how a man 
shall know when he has sufficiently tasked his brain, 
demands a longer answer than I can give it here ; and, 
unfortunately, there is no popular book since Ray's 
clever and useful " Mental Hygiene," and Feuchtersle- 
ben's " Dietetics of the Soul," both out of print, which 

9 8 

S. Weir Mitchell 

deals in a readable fashion with this or kindred topics. 1 
Many men are warned by some sense of want of clear- 
ness or ease in their intellectual processes. Others are 
checked by a feeling of surfeit or disgust, which they 
obey or not as they are wise or unwise. Here, for 
example, is in substance the evidence of a very atten- 
tive student of his own mental mechanism, whom we 
have to thank for many charming products of his 
brain. Like most scholars, he can scarcely say that he 
ever has a sense of " brain tire," because cold hands 
and feet and a certain restlessness of the muscular sys- 
tem drive him to take exercise. Especially when work- 
ing at night, he gets after a time a sense of disgust at 
the work he is doing. " But sometimes/' he adds, 
" my brain gets going, and is to be stopped by none of 
the common plans of counting, repeating French verbs,, 
or the like/' A well-known poet describes to me the 
curious condition of excitement into which his brain is 
cast by the act of composing verse, and thinks that 
the happy accomplishment of his task is followed by 
a feeling of relief, which shows that there has been high 

One of our ablest medical scholars reports him- 
self to me as having never been aware of any sensation 

1 See, now, "Brain-Work and Overwork," by H. C. Wood, M.D.; 
also, 4t Mental Overwork and Premature Disease among Public and 
Professional Men," by Ch. K. Mills, M.D. ; also, "Overwork and Sani- 
tation in Public Schools, with Remarks on the Production of Nervous 
Disease and Insanity," by Ch. K. Mills, M.D., Annals of Hygiene, 
September, 1886. 


Wear and Tear 

in the head, by which he could tell that he had worked 
enough, up to a late period of his college career, when, 
having overtaxed his brain, he was restricted by his 
advisers to two or three hours of daily study. He 
thus learned to study hard, and ever since has been ac- 
customed to execute all mental tasks at high pressure 
under intense strain and among the cares of a great 
practice. All his mind work is, however, forced labor, 
and it always results in a distinct sense of cerebral 
fatigue — a feeling of pressure, which is eased by clasp- 
ing his hands over his head ; and also there is desire to 
lie down and rest. 

" I am not aware/' writes a physician of distinc- 
tion, " that, until a few years ago, I ever felt any sense 
of fatigue from brain work which I could refer to the 
organ employed. The longer I worked the clearer and 
easier my mental processes seemed to be, until, during 
a time of great sorrow and anxiety, I pushed my think- 
ing organs rather too hard. As a result, I began to 
have headache after every period of intellectual exer- 
tion. Then I lost power to sleep. Although I have 
partially recovered, I am now always warned when I 
have done enough, by lessening ease in my work, and 
by a sense of fullness and tension in the head." The 
indications of brain tire, therefore, differ in different 
people, and are more and more apt to be referred to the 
thinking organ as it departs more and more from a 
condition of health. Surely a fuller record of the con- 
ditions under which men of note are using their 


S. Weir Mitchell 

mental machinery would be everyway worthy of atten- 

Another reason why too prolonged use of the brain 
is so mischievous is seen in a peculiarity, which is of 
itself a proof of the auto-activity of the vital acts of 
the various organs concerned in intellection. We 
sternly concentrate attention on our task, whatever it 
be ; we do this too long, or under circumstances which 
make labor difficult, such as during digestion or when 
weighted by anxiety. At last we stop and propose to 
find rest in bed. Not so, says the ill-used brain, now 
morbidly wide awake; and whether we will or not, the 
mind keeps turning over and over the work of the 
day, the business or legal problem, or mumbling, so to 
speak, some wearisome question in a fashion made use- 
less by the denial of full attention. Or else the imag- 
ination soars away with the unrestful energy of a 
demon, conjuring up an endless procession of broken 
images and disconnected thoughts, so that sleep is 
utterly banished. 

I have chosen here as examples men whose brains 
are engaged constantly in the higher forms of mental 
labor; but the difficulty of arresting at will the over- 
tasked brain belongs more or less to every man who 
overuses this organ, and is the well-known initial symp- 
tom of numerous morbid states. I have instanced 
scholars and men of science chiefly, because they, more 
than others, are apt to study the conditions under which 
their thinking organs prosper or falter in their work, 


Wear and Tear 

and because from them have we had the clearest 
accounts of this embarrassing condition of automatic 
activity of the cerebral organs. Few thinkers have 
failed, I fancy, to suffer in this way at some time, and 
with many the annoyance is only too common. I do 
not think the subject has received the attention it de- 
serves, even from such thorough believers in uncon- 
scious cerebration as Maudsley. As this state of brain 
is fatal to sleep, and therefore to needful repose of 
brain, every sufferer has a remedy which he finds more 
or less available. This usually consists in some form 
of effort to throw the thoughts off the track upon 
which they are moving. Almost every literary biog- 
raphy has some instance of this difficulty, and some 
hint as to the sufferer's method of freeing his brain 
from the despotism of a ruling idea or a chain of 

Many years ago I heard Mr. Thackeray say that 
he was sometimes haunted, when his work was over, 
by the creatures he himself had summoned into being, 
and that it was a good corrective to turn over the pages 
of a dictionary. Sir Walter Scott is said to have been 
troubled in a similar way. A great lawyer, whom I 
questioned lately as to this matter, told me that his cure 
was a chapter or two of a novel, with a cold bath be- 
fore going to bed ; for, said he quaintly, " You never 
take out of a cold bath the thoughts you take into it." 
It would be easy to multiply such examples. 

Looking broadly at the question of the influence of 

1 02 

S. JVeir Mitchell 

excessive and prolonged use of the brain upon the 
health of the nervous system, we learn, first, that cases 
of cerebral exhaustion in people who live wisely are 
rare. Eat regularly and exercise freely, and there is 
scarce a limit to the work you may get out of the think- 
ing organs. But if into the life of a man whose pow- 
ers are fully taxed we bring the elements of great 
anxiety or worry, or excessive haste, the whole ma- 
chinery begins at once to work, as it were, with a dan- 
gerous amount of friction. Add to this such constant 
fatigue of body, as some forms of business bring about, 
and you have all the means needed to ruin the man's 
power of useful labor. 

I have been careful here to state that combined 
overwork of mind and body is doubly mischievous, be- 
cause nothing is now more sure in hygienic science than 
that a proper alternation of physical and mental labor 
is best fitted to insure a lifetime of wholesome and 
vigorous intellectual exertion. This is probably due to 
several causes, but principally to the fact that during 
active exertion of the body the brain cannot be em- 
ployed intensely, and therefore has secured to it a state 
of repose which even sleep is not always competent 
to supply. There is a Turkish proverb which occurs 
to me here, like most proverbs more or less true : 
" Dreaming goes afoot, but who can think on horse- 
back? " Perhaps, too, there is concerned a physiolog- 
ical law, which, though somewhat mysterious, I may 
again have to summon to my aid in the way of ex- 


Wear and Tear 

planation. It is known as the law of Treviranus, its 
discoverer, and may thus be briefly stated : Each organ 
is to every other as an excreting organ. In other 
words, to insure perfect health, every tissue, bone, 
nerve, tendon, or muscle should take from the blood 
certain materials and return to it certain others. To 
do this every organ must or ought to have its period of 
activity and of rest, so as to keep the vital fluid in a 
proper state to nourish every other part. This process 
in perfect health is a system of mutual assurance, and 
is probably essential to a condition of entire vigor of 
both mind and body. 

It has long been believed that maladies of the nerv- 
ous system are increasing rapidly in the more crowded 
portions of the United States ; but I am not aware that 
anyone has studied the death records to make sure of 
the accuracy of this opinion. There can be no doubt, 
I think, that the palsy of children becomes more fre- 
quent in cities just in proportion to their growth in 
population. I mention it here because, as it is a disease 
which does not kill but only cripples, it has no place 
in the mortuary tables. Neuralgia is another malady 
which has no record there, but is, I suspect, increasing 
at a rapid rate wherever our people are crowded to- 
gether in towns. Perhaps no other form of sickness 
is so sure an indication of the development of the 
nervous temperament, or that condition in which there 
are both feebleness and irritability of the nervous sys- 
tem. But the most unquestionable proof of the in- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

crease of nervous disease is to be looked for in the death 
statistics of cities. 

There, if anywhere, we shall find evidence of the 
fact, because there we find in exaggerated shapes all 
the evils I have been defining. The best mode of test- 
ing the matter is to take the statistics of some large 
city which has grown from a country town to a vast 
business hive within a very few years. Chicago ful- 
fills these conditions precisely. In 1852 it numbered 
49,407 souls. At the close of 1868 it had reached to 
252,054. Within these years it has become the keenest 
and most wide-aw x ake business center in America. I 
owe to the kindness of Dr. J. H. Rauch, Sanitary Su- 
perintendent of Chicago, manuscript records, hitherto 
unpublished, of its deaths from nervous disease, as well 
as the statement of each year's total mortality; so that 
I have it in my power to show the increase of deaths 
from nerve disorders relatively to the annual loss of 
life from all causes. I possess similar details as to 
Philadelphia, which seem to admit of the same con- 
clusions as those drawn from the figures I have used. 
But here the evil has increased more slowly. Let us 
see what story these figures will tell us for the Western 
city. Unluckily, they are rather dry tale-tellers. 

The honest use of the mortuary statistics of a 
large town is no easy matter, and I must th :refore ask 
that I may be supposed to have taken eve y possible 
precaution in order not to exaggerate the reality of a 
great evil. Certain diseases, such as apoplexy, palsy, 


Wear and Tear 

epilepsy, St. Vitus's dance, and lockjaw or tetanus, we 
all agree to consider as nervous maladies; convul- 
sions, and the vast number of cases known in the death 
lists as dropsy of the brain, effusion on the brain, etc., 
are to be looked upon with more doubt. The former, 
as every doctor knows, are, in a vast proportion of 
instances, due to direct disease of the nerve centers; 
or, if not to this, then to such a condition of irritability 
of these parts as makes them too ready to originate 
spasms in response to causes which disturb the extrem- 
ities of the nerves, such as teething and the like. This 
tendency seems to be fostered by the air and habits of 
great towns, and by all of the agencies which in these 
places depress the health of a community. The other 
class of diseases, as dropsy of the brain or effusion, 
probably includes a number of maladies, due some of 
them to scrofula, and to the predisposing causes of 
that disease; others, to the kind of influences which 
seem to favor convulsive disorders. Less surely than 
the former class can these be looked upon as true 
nervous diseases; so that in speaking of them I am 
careful to make separate mention of their increase, 
while thinking it right on the whole to include in the 
general summary of this growth of nerve disorders 
this partially doubtful class. 

Taking the years 1852 to 1868, inclusive, it will be 
found tha. the population of Chicago has increased 
5.1 times and the deaths from all causes 3.7 times; 
while the nerve deaths, including the doubtful class 


S. Weir Mitchell 

labeled in the reports as dropsy of the brain and con- 
vulsions, have risen to 20.4 times what they were in 
1852. Thus in 1852, 1853, an d 1855, leaving out the 
cholera year, 1854, the deaths from nerve disorders 
were respectively to the whole population as 1 in 1,149, 
1 in 953, and 1 in 941 ; while in 1866, 1867, and 1868, 
they were 1 in 505, 1 in 415.7, and 1 in 287.8. Still 
omitting 1854, the average proportion of neural deaths 
to the total mortality was, in the five years beginning 
with 1852, 1 in 26.1. In the five latter years studied — 
that is, from 1864 to 1868, inclusive — the proportion 
was 1 nerve death to every 7 9.9 of all deaths. 

I have alluded above to a class of deaths included in 
my tables, but containing, no doubt, instances of mor- 
tality due to other causes than disease of the nerve 
organs. Thus, many which are stated to have been 
owing to convulsions ought to be placed to the credit 
of tubercular disease of the brain or to heart maladies ; 
but even in the practice of medicine the distinction as 
to cause cannot always be made ; and as a large propor- 
tion of this loss of life is really owing to brain affec- 
tions, I have thought best to include the whole class 
in my statement. 

A glance at the individual diseases which are in- 
dubitably nervous is more instructive and less perplex- 
ing. For example, taking the extreme years, the recent 
increase in apoplexy is remarkable, even when we re- 
member that it is a malady of middle and later life, and 
that Chicago, a new city, is therefore entitled to a 


Wear and Tear 

yearly increasing quantity of this form of death. In 
1 868 the number was 8.6 times greater than in 1852. 
Convulsions as a death cause had in 1868 risen to 
22 times as many as in the year 1852. Epilepsy, one 
of the most marked of all nervous maladies, is more 
free from the difficulties which belong to the last- 
mentioned class. In 1852 and 1853 there were but 2 
deaths from this disease; in the next four years there 
were none. From 1858 to 1864, inclusive, there were 
in all 6 epileptic deaths ; then we have in the following 
years, 5, 3, 11 ; and in 1868 the number had increased 
to 17. Passing over palsy, which, like apoplexy, in- 
creases in 1868 — 8.6 times as compared with 1852, 
and 26 times as compared with the four years follow- 
ing 1852 — we come to lockjaw, an unmistakable nerve 
malady. Six years out of the first eleven give us no 
death from this painful disease; the others, up to 1864, 
offer, each, 1 only, and the last-mentioned year has 
but 2. Then the number rises to 3 each year, to 5 
in 1867, and to 12 in 1868. At first sight this record 
of mortality from lockjaw would seem to be conclusive, 
yet it is perhaps, of all the maladies mentioned, the 
most deceptive as a means of determining the growth 
of neural diseases. To make this clear to the gen- 
eral reader he need only be told that tetanus is nearly 
always caused by mechanical injuries, and that the nat- 
ural increase of these in a place like Chicago may ac- 
count for a large part of the increase. Yet, taking 
the record as a whole, and viewing it only with a calm 


5. Weir Mitchell 

desire to get at the truth, it is not possible to avoid 
seeing that the growth of nerve maladies has been 

The industry and energy which have built this great 
city on a morass, and made it a vast center of insatiate 
commerce, are now at work to undermine the nervous 
systems of its restless and eager people, 1 with what 
result I have here tried to point out, chiefly because it 
is an illustration, in the most concentrated form, of 
causes which are at work throughout the land. 

The facts I have given establish the dispropor- 
tionate increase in one great city of those diseases 
which are largely produced by the strain on the nerv- 
ous system resulting from the toils and competitions 
of a community growing rapidly and stimulated to its 
utmost capacity. Probably the same rule would be 
found to apply to other large towns, but I have not 
had time to study the statistics of any of them fully; 
and for reasons already given, Chicago may be taken 
as a typical illustration. 

It were interesting to-day to question the later sta- 
tistics of this great business-center ; to see if the answers 
would weaken or reenforce the conclusions drawn in 
1 87 1. I have seen it anew of late with its population 
of 700,000 souls. It is a place to-day to excite wonder, 
and pity, and fear. All the tides of its life move with 
bustling swiftness. Nowhere else are the streets more 

1 I asked two citizens of this uneasy town — on the same day — what 
was their business. Both replied tranquilly that they were speculators. 


Wear and Tear 

full, and nowhere else are the faces so expressive of 
preoccupation, of anxiety, of excitement. It is mak- 
ing money fast and accumulating a physiological debt 
cf which that bitter creditor, the future, will one day 
demand payment. 

If I have made myself understood, we are now 
prepared to apply some of our knowledge to the solu- 
tion of certain awkward questions which force them- 
selves daily upon the attention of every thoughtful and 
observant physician, and have thus opened a way to the 
discussion of the causes, which, as I believe, are deeply 
affecting the mental and physical health of working 
Americans. Some of these are due to the climatic con- 
ditions under which all work must be done in this 
country, some are outgrowths of our modes of labor, 
and some go- back to social habitudes and defective 
methods of early educational training. 

In studying this subject, it will not answer to look 
only at the causes of sickness and weakness which af- 
fect the male sex. If the mothers of a people are sickly 
and weak, the sad inheritance falls upon their off- 
spring, and this is why I must deal first, however 
briefly, with the health of our girls, because it is here, 
as the doctor well knows, that the trouble begins. Ask 
any physician of your acquaintance to sum up thought- 
fully the young girls he knows, and to tell you how 
many in each score are fit to be healthy wives and 
mothers, or in fact to be wives and mothers at all. I 
have been asked this question myself very often, and 


S. Weir Mitchell 

I have heard it asked of others. The answers I am not 
going to give, chiefly because I should not be believed 
— a disagreeable position, in which I shall not delib- 
erately place myself. Perhaps I ought to add that the 
replies I have heard given by others were appalling. 

Next. I ask you to note carefully the expression 
and figures of the young girls whom you may chance 
to meet in your walks, or whom you may observe at 
a concert or in the ballroom. You will see many very- 
charming faces, the like of which the world cannot 
match — figures somewhat too spare of flesh, and, es- 
pecially south of Rhode Island, a marvelous littleness 
of hand and foot. But look further, and especially 
among New England young girls : you will be struck 
with a certain hardness of line in form and feature 
which should not be seen between thirteen and eight- 
een, at least; and if you have an eye which rejoices in 
the tints of health, you will too often miss them on 
the cheeks we are now so daringly criticising. I do 
not want to do more than is needed of this ungra- 
cious talk : suffice it to say that multitudes of our 
young girls are merely pretty to look at, or not that; 
that their destiny is the shawl and the sofa, neu- 
ralgia, weak backs, and the varied forms of hysteria — 
that domestic demon which has produced untold dis- 
comfort in many a household, and, I am almost ready 
to say, as much unhappiness as the husband's dram. 
My phrase may seem outrageously strong, but only the 
doctor knows what one of these self-made invalids can 


Wear and Tear 

do to make a household wretched. Mrs. Gradgrind is r 
in fiction, the only successful portrait of this type of 
misery, of the woman who wears out and destroys 
generations of nursing relatives, and who, as Wendell 
Holmes has said, is like a vampire, sucking slowly the 
blood of every healthy, helpful creature within reach 
of her demands. 

If any reader doubts my statement as to the phys- 
ical failure of our city-bred women to fulfill all the 
natural functions of mothers, let him contrast the 
power of the recently imported Irish or Germans to 
nurse their babies a full term or longer, with that of 
the native women even of our mechanic classes. It is 
difficult to get at full statistics as to those of a higher 
social degree, but I suspect that not over one-half are 
competent to nurse their children a full year without 
themselves suffering gravely. I ought to add that our 
women, unlike ladies abroad, are usually anxious to 
nurse their own children, and merely cannot. The nu- 
merous artificial infant foods now for sale singularly 
prove the truth of this latter statement. Many physi- 
cians, with whom I have talked of this matter, believe 
that I do not overstate the evil ; others think that two- 
thirds may be found reliable as nurses ; while the rural 
doctors who have replied to my queries state that only 
from one-tenth to three-tenths of farmers' wives are 
unequal to this natural demand. There is indeed little 
doubt that the mass of our women possess that peculiar 
nervous organization which is associated with great 


S. Weir Mitchell 

excitability, and, unfortunately, with less physical vigor 
than is to be found, for example, in the sturdy English 
dames at whom Hawthorne sneered so bitterly. And 
what are the causes to which these peculiarities are to 
be laid ? There are many who will say that late hours, 
styles of dress, prolonged dancing, etc., are to be 
blamed; while really, with rare exception, the newer 
fashions have been more healthy than those they super- 
seded, people are better clad and better warmed than 
ever, and, save in rare cases, late hours and overexer- 
tion in the dance are utterly incapable of alone explain- 
ing the mischief. I am far more inclined to believe 
that climatic peculiarities have formed the groundwork 
of the evil, and enabled every injurious agency to pro- 
duce an effect w T hich would not in some other countries 
be so severe. I am quite persuaded, indeed, that the 
development of a nervous temperament, with lessened, 
power of endurance, is one of the many race-changes 
which are also giving us facial, vocal, and other pe- 
culiarities derived from none of our ancestral stocks. 
If, as I believe, this change of temperament in a people 
coming largely from the phlegmatic races is to be seen 
most remarkably in the more nervous sex, it will not 
surprise us that it should be fostered by many causes 
which are fully within our own control. Given such a 
tendency, disease will find in it a ready prey, want of 
exercise will fatally increase it, and all the follies of 
fashion will aid in the work of ruin. 

While a part of the mischief lies with climatic con- 


Wear and Tear 

ditions which are utterly mysterious, the obstacles to 
physical exercise, arising from extremes of temper- 
ature, constitute at least one obvious cause of ill health 
among women in our country. The great heat of sum- 
mer, and the slush and ice of winter, interfere with 
women who wish to take exercise, but whose arrange- 
ments to go out of doors involve wonderful changes of 
dress and an amount of preparation appalling to the 
masculine creature. 

The time taken for the more serious instruction 
of girls extends to the age of nineteen, and rarely over 
this. During some of these years they are undergoing 
such organic development as renders them remarkably 
sensitive. At seventeen I presume that healthy girls 
are nearly as well able to study, with proper precau- 
tions, as men; but before this time overuse, or even a 
very steady use, of the brain is in many dangerous to 
health and to every probability of future womanly use- 

In most of our schools the hours are too many for 
both girls and boys. From nine until two is, with us, 
the common school time in private seminaries. The 
usual recess is twenty minutes or half an hour, and it 
is not as a rule filled by enforced exercise. In certain 
schools — would it were common ! — ten minutes recess 
is given after every hour; and in the Blind Asylum of 
Philadelphia this time is taken up by light gymnastics, 
which are obligatory. To these hours we must add 
the time spent in study out of school. This, for some 


S. Weir Mitchell 

reason, nearly always exceeds the time stated by teach- 
ers to be necessary; and most girls of our common 
schools and normal schools between the ages of thir- 
teen and seventeen thus expend two or three hours. 
Does any physician believe that it is good for a grow- 
ing girl to be so occupied seven or eight hours a day? 
or that it is right for her to use her brains as long a 
time as the mechanic employs his muscles? But this 
is only a part of the evil. The multiplicity of studies, 
the number of teachers — each eager to get the most 
he can out of his pupil — the severer drill of our day, 
and the greater intensity of application demanded, pro- 
duce effects on the growing brain which, in a vast num- 
ber of cases, can be only disastrous. 

My remarks apply of course chiefly to public-school 
life. I am glad to say that of late, in all of our best 
school States, more thought is now being given to this 
subject; but we have much to do before an evil which 
is partly a school difficulty and partly a home difficulty 
shall have been fully provided against. 

Careful reading of our Pennsylvania reports and 
of those of Massachusetts convinces me that while in 
the country schools overwork is rare, in those of the 
cities it is more common, and that the system of push- 
ing, of competitive examinations, of ranking, etc., 
is in a measure responsible for that worry which adds 
a dangerous element to work. 

The following remarks as to the influence of home 
life in Massachusetts are not out of place here, and will 


Wear and Tear 

be reinforced by what is to be said farther on by a com- 
petent authority as to Philadelphia : 

" The danger of overwork, I believe, exists mainly, 
if not wholly, in graded schools, where large numbers 
are taught together, where there is greater competition 
than in ungraded schools, and where the work of each 
pupil cannot be so easily adjusted to his capacity and 
needs. And what are the facts in these schools? I 
am prepared to agree with a recent London School 
Board Report so far as to say that in some of our 
graded schools there are pupils who are overworked. 
The number in any school is, I believe, small who are 
stimulated beyond their strength, and the schools are 
few in which such extreme stimulation is encouraged. 
When, with a large class of children whose minds are 
naturally quick and active, the teacher resorts to the 
daily marking of recitations, to the giving of extra 
credits for extra work done, to ranking, and to holding 
up the danger of nonpromotion before the pupils ; and 
when, added to those extra inducements to work, there 
are given by committees and superintendents examina- 
tions for promotion at regular intervals, it would be 
very strange if there were not some pupils so weak 
and so susceptible as to be encouraged to work beyond 
their strength. There is another occasion of overwork 
which I have found in a few schools, and that is the 
spending of nearly all of the school time in recitation 
and putting off study to extra time at home. When, 
in a school of forty or more, pupils belong to the same 


S. Weir Mitchell 

class, and are not separated into divisions for recitation 
and study, there is a temptation to spend the greater 
part of the time in recitation which few teachers can 
resist; and if tasks are given, they have to be learned 
out of school or not at all. Pupils of grammar schools 
are known to feel obliged to study two or three hours 
daily, from this cause, at a time when the}' should be 
sleeping, or exercising in the open air. Frequently, 
however, it is not so much overwork as overworry that 
most affects the health of the child — that worry which 
may not always be traced to any fault of system or 
teacher, but which, it must be admitted, is too often 
induced by encouraging wrong motives to study. 

" In making up the verdict we must not forget that 
others besides the teacher may be responsible for over- 
work and overworry. The parents and pupils them- 
selves are quite as often to blame as are the teachers. 
An unwillingness on the part of pupils to review work 
imperfectly done, and a desire on the part of parents 
to have their children get into a higher class, or to 
graduate, frequently cause pupils to cram for exam- 
inations, and to work unduly at a time when the body 
is least able to bear the extra strain. Again, children 
are frequently required to take extra lessons in music 
or some other study at home, thus depriving them of 
needed exercise and recreation, or exhausting nervous 
energy which is needed for their regular school work. 

11 It will be observed that in this charge against 
parents, I do not speak of those causes of ill health 


Wear and Tear 

which really have nothing to do with overwork, but 
which are oftentimes forgotten when a schoolboy or 
girl breaks down. I allude to the eating of improper 
and unwholesome food, to irregularity of eating and 
sleeping, to attendance upon parties and other places 
of amusement late at night, to smoking, and to the in- 
dulgence of other habits which tend to unduly excite 
the nervous system. For very obvious reasons these 
causes of disease are not brought prominently forward 
by the attending physician, who doubtless thinks it 
safer and more flattering to his patrons to say that 
the child has broken down from hard study, rather 
than from excesses which are somewhat discreditable. 
While parents are clearly to blame for endangering 
health in the ways indicated, it may be a question 
whether the work required to be done in school should 
not be regulated accordingly; whether, in designating 
the studies to be taken, and in assigning lessons, there 
should not be taken into consideration all the circum- 
stances of the pupil's life which can be conveniently 
ascertained, even though these circumstances are most 
unfavorable to school work, and are brought about 
mainly through the ignorance or folly of parents. Of 
course there is a limit to such an adjustment of work 
in school, but with proper caution, and a good under- 
standing with the parents there need be little danger 
of advantage being taken by an indolent child; nor 
need the school be affected when it is understood to be 
a sign of weakness rather than of favor to any par- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

ticular pupil to lessen his work. Not infrequently 
there are found other causes of ill health than those 
which I have mentioned; such, for instance, as poor 
ventilation, overheating of the schoolroom, draughts 
of cold air, and the like; not to speak of the annual 
public exhibition, with the possible nervous excitement 
attending it. All of these things are mentioned, not 
because they belong directly to the question of over- 
work, but because it is well, in considering the question, 
to keep in mind all possible causes of ill health, that no 
one cause may be unduly emphasized. " x 

In private schools the same kind of thing goes on, 
with the addition of foreign languages, and under the 
dull spur of discipline, without the aid of any such ne- 
cessities as stimulate the pupils of what we are pleased 
to call a normal ( !) school. 

In private schools for girls of what I may call the 
leisure class of society, overwork is of course much 
more rare than in our normal schools for girls; but 
the precocious claims of social life, and the indifference 
of parents as to hours and systematic living, needlessly 
add to the ever-present difficulties of the school teacher, 
whose control ceases when the pupil passes out of her 

As to the school in which both sexes are educated 
together a word may be said. Surely no system can 
be worse than that which complicates a difficult prob- 

1 Forty-ninth Annual Report of the Massachusetts Board of Educa- 
tion, p. 204 (John T. Prince). 


Wear and Tear 

lem by taking two sets of beings of different gifts, and 
of unlike physiological needs and construction, and 
forcing them into the same educational mold. 

It is a wrong for both sexes. Not much unlike the 
boy in childhood, there comes a time when in the rapid 
evolution of puberty the girl becomes for a while more 
than the equal of the lad, and, owing to her conscien- 
tiousness, his moral superior, but at this era of her life 
she is weighted by periodical disabilities which become 
needlessly hard to consider in a school meant to be 
both home and school for both sexes. Finally, there 
comes a time when the matured man certainly sur- 
passes the woman in persistent energy and capacity for 
unbroken brain work. If then she matches herself 
against him, it will be, with some exceptions, at bitter 

It is sad to think that the demands of civilized life 
are making this contest almost unavoidable. Even if 
we admit equality of intellect, the struggle with man 
is cruelly unequal and is to be avoided whenever it is 

The colleges for women, such as Vassar, are now- 
adays more careful than they were. Indeed, their 
machinery for guarding health while education of a 
high class goes on is admirable. What they still lack 
is a correct public feeling. The standard for health 
and endurance is too much that which would be normal 
for young men, and the sentiment of these groups of 
women is silently opposed to admitting that the femi- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

nine life has necessities which do not cumber that of 
man. Thus the unwritten code remains in a measure 
hostile to the accepted laws which are supposed to rule. 

As concerns our colleges for young men, I have lit- 
tle to say. The cases I see of breakdown among 
women between sixteen and nineteen who belong to 
normal schools or female colleges are out of all pro- 
portion larger than the number of like failures among 
young men of the same ages, and yet, as I have hinted, 
the arrangements for watching the health of these 
groups of women are usually better than such as the 
colleges for young men provide. The system of pro- 
fessional guardianship at Johns Hopkins is an admir- 
able exception, and at some other institutions the phys- 
ical examination on matriculation becomes of the 
utmost value, when followed up as it is in certain of 
these schools by compulsory physical training and occa- 
sional reexaminations of the state of health. 

I do not see why the whole matter could not in all 
colleges be systematically made part of the examina- 
tions on entry upon studies. It would at least point 
out to the thoughtful student his weak points, and en- 
able him to do his work and take his exercise with 
some regard to consequences. I have over and over 
seen young men with weak hearts or unsuspected val- 
vular troubles, who had suffered from having been al- 
lowed to play football. Cases of cerebral trouble in 
students, due to the use of defective eyes, are common, 
and I have known many valuable lives among male 


Wear and Tear 

and female students crippled hopelessly owing to the 
fact that no college preexamination of their state had 
taught them their true condition, and that no one had 
pointed out to them the necessity of such correction by 
glasses as would have enabled them as workers to com- 
pete on even terms with their fellows. 

In a somewhat discursive fashion I have dwelt 
upon the mischief which is pressing to-day upon our 
girls of every class in life. The doctor knows how 
often and how earnestly he is called upon to remon- 
strate against this growing evil. He is, of course, well 
enough aware that many sturdy girls stand the strain, 
but he knows also that very many do not — and that 
the brain, sick w 7 ith multiplied studies and unwhole- 
some home life, plods on, doing poor work, until some- 
body wonders what is the matter with that girl ; or she 
is left to scramble through, or break down with weak 
eyes, headaches, neuralgias, or what not. I am per- 
fectly confident that I shall be told here that girls 
ought to be able to study hard between fourteen and 
eighteen years without injury, if boys can do it. Prac- 
tically, however, the boys of to-day are getting their 
toughest education later and later in life, while girls 
leave school at the same age as they did thirty years 
ago. It used to be common for boys to enter college 
at fourteen; at present, eighteen is a usual age of ad- 
mission at Harvard or Yale. Now, let anyone com- 
pare the scale of studies for both sexes employed half a 
century ago with that of to-day. He will find that its 


S. Weir Mitchell 

demands are vastly more exacting than they were — a 
difference fraught with no evil for men, who attack 
the graver studies later in life, but most perilous for 
girls, who are still expected to leave school at eighteen 
on earlier. 1 

I firmly believe — and I am not alone in this opin- 
ion — that as concerns the physical future of women 
they would do far better if the brain were very lightly 
tasked and the school hours but three or four a day 
until they reach the age of seventeen at least. Any- 
thing, indeed, were better than loss of health ; and if it 
be in any case a question of doubt, the school should 
be unhesitatingly abandoned or its hours lessened, as 
at least in part the source of very many of the nervous 
maladies with which our women are troubled. I am 
almost ashamed to defend a position which is held by 
many competent physicians, but an intelligent friend, 
who has read this page, still asks me why it is that 
overwork of brain should be so serious an evil to 
women at the age of womanly development. My best 
reply would be the experience and opinions of those of 
us who are called upon to see how many schoolgirls are 
suffering in health from confinement, want of exercise 
at the time of day when they most incline to it, bad 
ventilation, 2 and too steady occupation of mind. At 

1 Witness Richardson's heroine, who was "perfect mistress of the 
four rules of arithmetic ! n 

2 In the city where this is written there is, so far as I know, not one 
private girls' school in a building planned for a schoolhouse. As a con- 


Wear and Tear 

no other time of life is the nervous system so sensi- 
tive — so irritable, I might say — and at no other are 
abundant fresh air and exercise so all-important. To 
show more precisely how the growing girl is injured 
by the causes just mentioned would lead me to subjects 
unfit for full discussion in these pages, but no thought- 
ful reader can be much at a loss as to my meaning. 

The following remarks I owe to the experience of 
a friend, 1 a woman, who kindly permits me to use 
them in full. They complete what I have space to add 
as to the matter of education, and deserve to be read 
with care by every parent, and by everyone concerned 
in our public schools. 

" There can be no question that the health of grow- 
ing girls is overtaxed ; but in my opinion, this is a vice 
of the age, and not primarily of the schools. I have 
found teachers more alive to it than parents or the 
general public. Upon interrogating a class of forty 
girls, of ages varying from twelve to fourteen, I found 
that more than half the number were conscious of 
loss of sleep and nervous apprehension before examina- 
tions; but I discovered, upon further inquiry, that 
nearly one-half of this class received instruction in one 
or two branches outside of the school curriculum, with 
the intention of qualifying to become teachers. I could 

sequence, we hear endless complaints from young ladies of overheated or 
chilly rooms. If the teacher be old, the room is kept too warm; or if she 
be young, and much afoot about her school, the apartment is apt to be 

1 Miss Pendleton. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

get no information as to appetite or diet; all of the 
class, as the teacher informed me, being ashamed to 
give information on questions of the table. In the 
opinion of this teacher, nervousness and sleeplessness 
are somewhat due to studies and indoor social amuse- 
ments in addition to regular school work, but chiefly 
to ignorance in the home as to the simplest rules of 
healthy living. Nearly all the girls in this class drink 
a cup of tea before leaving home, eat a sweet biscuit 
as they walk, hurried and late, to school, and nothing 
else until they go home to their dinners at two o'clock. 
All their brain work in the schoolroom is done before 
eating any nourishing food. The teacher realized the 
injurious effects of the present forcing system, and 
suggested withdrawing the girls from school for one 
year between the grammar and high-school grades. 
When I asked whether a better result would not be 
obtained by keeping the girls in school during this 
additional year, but relieving the pressure of purely 
mental work by the introduction throughout all the 
grades of branches in household economy, she said 
this seemed to her ideal but, she feared, impracticable, 
not from the nature of schools, but from the nature 
of boards. 

" A Latin graduating class of seven girls, aged 
seventeen and eighteen years, stated that they do their 
work without nervousness, restlessness, or apprehen- 

" This, with other statistics, would seem to bear 


Wear and Tear 

out your theory that after seventeen girls may study 
with much less risk to health. 

" So far as I have observed, the strain or tear is 
chiefly in the case of girls studying to become teachers. 
These girls often press forward too rapidly for the 
purpose of becoming self-supporting at the age of 
eighteen. The bait of a salary, and a good salary for 
one entering upon a profession, lures them on ; and a 
false sympathy in members of boards and committees 
lends itself to this injurious cramming. 

" Our own normal school, 1 which is doing a great, 
an indispensable, work in preparing a trained body of 
faithful, intelligent teachers, has succumbed to this in- 
jurious tendency. We have here the high and normal 
grades merged into one, the period of adolescence, 
stricken out of the girl's school life, and many hun- 
dreds of girls hurried annually forward beyond their 
physical or mental capacity, in advance of their phys- 
ical growth for the sake of those who cannot afford to 
remain in school one or two years longer. I say this 
notwithstanding the fact that this school is, in my 
opinion, one of the most potent agencies for good in 
the community. 

" Overpressure in school appears to me to be a dis- 
ease of the body politic from which this member suf- 
fers ; but it also seems to me that this vast school sys- 
tem is the most powerful agency for the correction of 
the evil. In the case of girls, the first principle to be 

1 Philadelphia. 

S. We'ir Mitchell 

recognized is that the education of women is a problem 
by itself; that in all its lower grades, at all events, it 
is not to be laid down exactly upon the lines of educa- 
tion for boys. 

" The school system may be made a forceful agency 
for building up the family, and the integrity of the 
home is without doubt the vital question of the age. 

u Edward Everett Hale, with his far spiritual sight, 
has discerned the necessity for restoring home train- 
ing, and advocates, to this end, short school terms of 
a few weeks annually. It is probable that in the future 
many school departments will be relegated to the home, 
but the homes are not now prepared to assume these 

" When it was discovered that citizens must be pre- 
pared for their political duties the schools were opened ; 
but the means so far became an end that even women 
were educated only in the directions which bear upon 
public and not upon household economy. The words 
of Stein, that ' what we put into the schools will come 
out in the manhood of the nation afterwards,' cannot 
be too often quoted. Let branches in household econ- 
omy be connected with all the general as distinguished 
from normal-school grades, and we not only relieve the 
girl immediately of the strain of working with insuf- 
ficient food, and of acquiring skill in household duties 
in addition to the school curriculum, we not only sim- 
plify and harmonize her work, but we send out in 
every case a woman prepared to carry this new influ- 


Wear and Tear 

ence into all her future life, even if a large number of 
these women should eventually pursue special or higher 
technical branches; for we are women before we are 
teachers, lawyers, physicians, etc., and if we are to add 
anything of distinctive value to the world by entering 
upon the fields of work hitherto preempted by men, it 
will be by the essential quality of this new feminine 

" The strain in all work comes chiefly from lack of 
qualification by training or nature for the work in 
hand — tear in place of wear. The schools can restore 
the ideal of quiet work. They have an immense advan- 
tage in regularity, discipline, time. This vast system 
gives an opportunity, such as no private schools offer, 
for ascertaining the average work which is healthful 
for growing girls. It is quite possible to ascertain, 
whether by women medical officers appointed to this 
end, or by the teachers themselves, the physical capac- 
ity of each girl, and to place her where this will not 
be exceeded. Girls trained in school under such wise 
supervision would go out into life qualified to guard 
the children of the future. The chief cause of overwork 
of children at present is the ignorance of parents as to 
the injurious effects of overwork, and of the signs of 
its influence. 

" The first step toward the relief of overpressure 
and false stimulus is to discard the pernicious idea that 
it is the function of the normal school to offer to every 
girl in the community the opportunity for becoming 


S. Weir Mitchell 

a teacher. This unwholesome feature is the one dis- 
tinctive strain which must be rem system. 

It can be done provided public and political sentiment 
approve. The normal school should be only a device 
for securing the best possible body of teachers. It 
should be technical. 

"Even" teacher knows that the average sdrl of 

has not reached the physi : .1. mental, or moral 

development necessary to enter upon this severe and 

high professional course of studies, and that one year 

r such a course. 

M Lengthen the time given to normal instruction — 
make it two years : give in this school instruction purely 
in the science of education : relegate all general instruc- 
tion to a good high school covering a term of four 
years. In this, as in all other progressive formative 
y ; ut is ahead. 

14 It will be time enough to talk of doing away with 
a portion of the girls'" school year when the schools have 
fulfilled their high mission, whet have sent out 

a large body of American women prepared, not for a 
fession, even the high feminine vocation of 
pedagogy, but equipped for her highest, most general 
and congenial function e source and center of the 


I am unwilling to leave this subject without a few 
words as to our remedy, especially ncerns our 

public schools and normal schools for girls. What 
seems to me to be needed m - what the woman 

Wear and Tear 

would bring into our school boards. Surely it is also 
possible for female teachers to talk frankly to that class 
of girls who learn little of the demands of health from 
uneducated or busy or careless mothers, and it would 
be as easy — if school boards were what they should be — 
to insist on such instruction, and to make sure that the 
claims of maturing womanhood are considered and 
attended to. Should I be told that this is impracticable, 
I reply that as high an authority as Samuel Eliot, of 
Massachusetts, has shown in large schools that it is 
both possible and valuable As concerns the home life, 
it is also easy to get at the parents by annual circulars 
enforcing good counsel as to some of the simplest hy- 
gienic needs in the way of sleep, hours of study, light, 
and meals. 

It were better not to educate girls at all between the 
ages of fourteen and eighteen, unless it can be done 
with careful reference to their bodily health. To-day, 
the American woman is, to speak plainly, too often 
physically unfit for her duties as woman, and is per- 
haps of all civilized females the least qualified to under- 
take those weightier tasks which tax so heavily the 
nervous system of man. She is not fairly up to what 
nature asks from her as wife and mother. How will 
she sustain herself under the pressure of those yet more 
exacting duties which nowadays she is eager to share 
with the man ? 

While making these stringent criticisms, I am 
anxious not to be misunderstood. The point which 


S. Weir Mitchell 

above all others I wish to make is this, that owing 
chiefly to peculiarities of climate, our growing girls 
are endowed with organizations so highly sensitive and 
impressionable that we expose them to needless dan- 
gers when we attempt to overtax them mentally. In 
any country the effects of such a course must be evil, 
but in America I believe it to be most disastrous. 

As I have spoken of climate in the broad sense as 
accountable for some peculiarities of the health of our 
women, so also would I admit it as one of the chief 
reasons why work among men results so frequently in 
tear as well as wear. I believe that something in our 
country makes intellectual work of all kinds harder 
to do than it is in Europe; and since we do it with a 
terrible energy, the result shows in wear very soon, and 
almost always in the way of tear also. Perhaps few 
persons who look for evidence of this fact at our na- 
tional career alone will be willing to admit my prop- 
osition, but among the higher intellectual workers, such 
as astronomers, physicists, and naturalists, I have fre- 
quently heard this belief expressed, and by none so 
positively as those who have lived on both continents. 
Since this paper was first written I have been at some 
pains to learn directly from Europeans who have come 
to reside in America how this question has been an- 
swered by their experience. For obvious reasons, I 
do not name my witnesses, who are numerous ; but, 
although they vary somewhat in the proportion of 
the effects which they ascribe to climate and to such 


Wear and Tear 

domestic peculiarities as the overheating of our houses, 
they are at one as regards the simple fact that, for 
some reason, mental work is more exhausting here 
than in Europe; while, as a rule, such Americans as 
have worked abroad are well aware that in France 
and in England intellectual labor is less trying than 
it is with us. A great physiologist, well known among 
us, long ago expressed to me the same opinion; and 
one of the greatest of living naturalists, who is hon- 
ored alike on both continents, is positive that brain 
work is harder and more hurtful here than abroad — 
an opinion which is shared by Oliver Wendell Holmes 
and other competent observers. Certain it is that our 
thinkers of the classes named are apt to break down 
with what the doctor knows as cerebral exhaustion — 
a condition in which the mental organs become more 
or less completely incapacitated for labor — and that 
this state of things is very much less common among 
the savants of Europe. A share in the production of 
this evil may perhaps be due to certain general habits 
of life which fall with equal weight of mischief upon 
many classes of busy men, as I shall presently point 
out. Still, these will not altogether account for the 
fact, nor is it to my mind explained by any of the more 
obvious faults in our climate, nor yet by our habits of 
life, such as furnace-warmed houses, hasty meals, bad 
cooking, or neglect of exercise. Let a man live as he 
may, I believe he will still discover that mental labor 
is with us more exhausting than we could wish it to 


S. Weir Mitchell 

be. Why this is I cannot say, but it is not more mys- 
terious than the fact that agents which, as sedatives 
or excitants, affect the great nerve centers, do this very 
differently in different climates. There is some evi- 
dence to show that this is also the case with narcotics ; 
and perhaps a partial explanation may be found in the 
manner in which the excretions are controlled by ex- 
ternal temperatures, as well as by the fact which Dr. 
Brown-Sequard discovered, and which I have fre- 
quently corroborated, that many poisons are retarded 
in their action by placing the animal affected in a warm 

It is possible to drink with safety in England quan- 
tities of wine which here would be disagreeable in their 
first effect and perilous in their ultimate results. The 
Cuban who takes coffee enormously at home, and 
smokes endlessly, can do here neither the one nor the 
other to the same degree. And so also the amount 
of excitation from work which the brain will bear 
varies exceedingly with variations of climatic in- 

We are all of us familiar with the fact that physical 
work is more or less exhausting in different climates, 
and as I am dealing, or about to deal, with the work 
of business men, which involves a certain share of 
corporeal exertion, as well as with that of mere 
scholars, I must ask leave to digress, in order to 
show that in this part of the country at least the 
work of the body probably occasions more strain than 


Wear and Tear 

in Europe, and is followed by greater sense of 

The question is certainly a large one, and should 
include a consideration of matters connected with food 
and stimulants, on which I can but touch. I have 
carefully questioned a number of master mechanics 
who employ both foreigners and native Americans, and 
I am assured that the British workman finds labor more 
trying here than at home; while, perhaps, the eight- 
hour movement may be looked upon as an instinctive 
expression of the main fact as regards our working 
class in general. 

A distinguished English scholar informs me that 
since he has resided among us the same complaints, as 
to the depressing effects of physical labor in America, 
have come to him from skilled English mechanics. 
What share change of diet and the like may have in 
the matter, I have not space to discuss. 1 

Although, from what I have seen, I should judge 
that overtasked men of science are especially liable to 
the trouble which I have called cerebral exhaustion, all 
classes of men who use the brain severely, and who 
have also — and this is important — seasons of excessive 

1 The new emigrant suffers in a high degree from the same evils as to 
cookery which affect only less severely the mass of our people, and this, 
no doubt, helps to enfeeble him. The frying pan has, I fear, a better 
right to be called our national emblem than the eagle, and I grieve to 
say it reigns supreme west of the Alleghanies. I well remember that a 
party of friends about to camp out were unable to buy a gridiron in two 
Western towns, each numbering over four thousand eaters of fried meats. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

anxiety or of grave responsibility, are subject to the 
same form of disease; and this is, I presume, why we 
meet with numerous instances of nervous exhaustion 
among merchants and manufacturers. The lawyer and 
clergyman offer examples, but I do not remember ever 
to have seen a bad case among physicians. Dismissing 
the easy jest which the latter statement will surely sug- 
gest, the reason for this we may presently encounter. 

My notebooks seem to show that manufacturers 
and certain classes of railway officials are the most 
liable to suffer from neural exhaustion. Next to these 
come merchants in general, brokers, etc. ; then, less 
frequently, clergymen; still less often, lawyers; and, 
more rarely, doctors ; while distressing cases are apt to 
occur among the overschooled young of both sexes. 

The worst instances to be met with are among 
young men suddenly cast into business positions in- 
volving weighty responsibility. I can recall several 
cases of men under or just over twenty-one who have 
lost health while attempting to carry the responsibilities 
of great manufactories. Excited and stimulated by 
the pride of such a charge, they have worked with a 
certain exaltation of brain, and, achieving success, have 
been stricken down in the moment of triumph. This 
too frequent practice of immature men going into busi- 
ness, especially with borrowed capital, is a serious evil. 
The same person, gradually trained to naturally and 
slowly increasing burdens, would have been sure of 
healthy success. In individual cases I have found 


Wear and Tear 

it so often vain to remonstrate or to point out the 
various habits which collectively act for mischief on 
our business class that I may well despair of doing 
good by a mere general statement. As I have noted 
them, connected with cases of overwork, they are these : 
Late hours of work, irregular meals bolted in haste 
away from home, the want of holidays and of pursuits 
outside of business, and the consequent practice of 
carrying home, as the only subject of talk, the cares 
and successes of the countinghouse and the stock 
board. Most of these evil habits require no comment. 
What indeed can be said ? The man who has worked 
hard all day, and lunched or dined hastily, comes home 
or goes to the club to converse — save the mark ! — about 
goods and stocks. Holidays, except in summer, he 
knows not, and it is then thought time enough taken 
from work if the man sleeps in the country and comes 
into a hot city daily, or at the best has a week or 
two at the seashore. This incessant monotony tells in 
the end. Men have confessed to me that for twenty 
years they had worked every day, often traveling at 
night or on Sundays to save time ; and that in all this 
period they had not taken one day for play. These are 
extreme instances, but they are also in a measure repre- 
sentative of a frightfully general social evil. 

Is it any wonder if asylums for the insane gape 
for such men? There comes to them at last a season 
of business embarrassment; or, when they get to be 
fifty or thereabouts, the brain begins to feel the strain, 


S. Weir Mitchell 

and just as they are thinking, " Now we will stop and 
enjoy ourselves/' the brain, which, slavelike, never 
murmurs until it breaks out into open insurrection, 
suddenly refuses to work, and the mischief is done. 
There are therefore two periods of existence especially 
prone to those troubles — one when the mind is matur- 
ing; another at the turning point of life, when the 
brain has attained its fullest power, and has left behind 
it, accomplished, the larger part of its best enterprise 
and most active labor. 

I am disposed to think that the variety of work done 
by lawyers, their long summer holiday, their more 
general cultivation, their usual tastes for literary or 
other objects out of their business walks, may, to some 
extent, save them, as well as the fact that they can 
rarely be subject to the sudden and fearful responsi- 
bilities of business men. Moreover, like the doctor, 
the lawyer gets his weight upon him slowly, and is 
thirty at least before it can be heavy enough to task 
him severely. The business man's only limitation is 
need of money, and few young mercantile men will 
hesitate to enter trade on their own account if they can 
command capital. With the doctor, as with the 
lawyer, a long intellectual education, a slowly increas- 
ing strain, and responsibilities of gradual growth tend, 
with his outdoor life, to save him from the form of 
disease I have been alluding to. This element of open- 
air life, I suspect, has a large share in protecting men 
who in many respects lead a most unhealthy existence. 


Wear and Tear 

The doctor, who is supposed to get a large share of 
exercise, in reality gets very little after he grows too 
busy to walk, and has then only the incidental exposure 
to out-of-door air. When this is associated with a fair 
share of physical exertion, it is an immense safeguard 
against the ills of anxiety and too much brain work. I 
presume that very few of our generals could have gone 
through with their terrible task if it had not been that 
they lived in the open air and exercised freely. For 
these reasons I do not doubt that the effects of our 
great Civil War were far more severely felt by the Sec- 
retary of War and President Lincoln, than by Grant or 

The wearing, incessant cares of overwork, of busi- 
ness anxiety, and the like, produce directly diseases of 
the nervous system, and are also the fertile parents of 
dyspepsia, consumption, and maladies of the heart. 
How often we can trace all the forms of the first- 
named protean disease to such causes is only too well 
known to every physician, and their connection with 
cardiac troubles is also well understood. Happily, 
functional troubles of heart or stomach are far from 
unfrequent precursors of the graver mischief which 
finally falls upon the nerve centers, if the lighter warn- 
ings have been neglected ; and for this reason no man 
who has to use his brain energetically and for long 
periods can afford to disregard the hints which he 
gets from attacks of palpitation of heart or from a 
disordered stomach. In many instances these are the 


S. Weir Mitchell 

only expressions of the fact that he is abusing the 
machinery of mind or body ; and the sufferer may think 
himself fortunate that this is the case, since even the 
least serious degrees of direct exhaustion of the centers 
with which he feels and thinks are more grave and are 
less open to ready relief. 

When affections of the outlying organs are neg- 
lected, and even in many cases where these have not 
suffered at all, we are apt to witness, as a result of 
too prolonged anxiety combined with business cares, 
or even of mere overwork alone, with want of proper 
physical habits as to exercise, amusement, and diet, that 
form of disorder of which I have already spoken as 
cerebral exhaustion; and before closing this paper I 
am tempted to describe briefly the symptoms which 
warn of its approach or tell of its complete possession 
of the unhappy victim. Why it should be so difficult 
of relief is hard to comprehend, until we remember 
that the brain is apt to go on doing its weary work 
automatically and despite the will of the unlucky 
owner; so that it gets no thorough rest, and is in the 
hapless position of a broken limb which is expected 
to knit while still in use. Where physical overwork 
has worn out the spinal or motor centers, it is, on 
the other hand, easy to enforce repose, and so to 
place them in the best condition for repair. This was 
often and happily illustrated during the war. Severe 
marches, bad food, and other causes which make war 
exhausting were constantly in action, until certain 


Wear and Tear 

men were doing their work with too small a margin 
of reserve power. Then came such a crisis as the last 
days of McClellan's retreat to the James River, or the 
forced march of the Sixth Army Corps to Gettysburg, 
and at once these men succumbed w T ith palsy of the 
legs. A few months of absolute rest, good diet, ale, 
fresh beef, and vegetables restored them to perfect 

In all probability incessant use of a part flushes 
with blood the nerve centers which furnish it with 
motor energy, so that excessive work may bring about 
a state of congestion, owing to which the nerve center 
becomes badly nourished, and at last strikes work. In 
civil life we sometimes meet with such cases among 
certain classes of artisans : paralysis of the legs as a 
result of using the treadle of the sewing machine ten 
hours a day is a good example, and, I am sorry to add, 
not a very rare one, among the overtasked women who 
slave at such labor. 

Now let us see what happens when the intellectual 
organs are put overlong on the stretch, and when moral 
causes, such as heavy responsibilities and overanxiety, 
are at work. 

When in active use, the thinking organs become 
full of blood, and, as has been shown, rise in tem- 
perature, while the feet and hands become cold. Na- 
ture meant that, for their work, they should be, in 
the first place, supplied with food; next, that they 
should have certain intervals of rest to rid themselves 


S. Weir Mitchell 

of the excess of blood accumulated during their periods 
of activity, and this is to be done by sleep, and also 
by bringing into play the physical machinery of the 
body, such as the muscles — that is to say, by exercise 
which flushes the parts engaged in it and so depletes 
the brain. She meant, also, that the various brain 
organs should aid in the relief by being used in other 
directions than mere thought; and lastly, she desired 
that, during digestion, all the surplus blood of the body 
should go to the stomach, intestines, and liver, and 
that neither blood nor nerve power should be then 
misdirected upon the brain; in other words, she did 
not mean that we should try to carry on, with equal 
energy, two kinds of important functional business at 

If, then, the brain user wishes to be healthy he must 
limit his hours of work according to rules which will 
come of experience, and which no man can lay down 
for him. Above all, let him eat regularly and not at 
too long intervals. I well remember the amazement of 
a distinguished naturalist when told that his sleepless- 
ness and irregular pulse were due to his fasting from 
nine until six. A biscuit and a glass of porter, at one 
o'clock, effected a ready and pleasant cure. As to 
exercise in the fresh air, I need say little, except that 
if the exercise can be made to have a distinct object, 
not in the way of business, so much the better. Nor 
should I need to add that we may relieve the thinking 
and worrying mechanisms by light reading and other 


Wear and Tear 

amusements, or enforce the lesson that no hard work 
should be attempted during digestion. The wise doctor 
may haply smile at the commonplace of such directions, 
but woe be to the man who neglects them ! 

When an overworked and worried victim has 
sufficiently sinned against these simple laws, if he does 
not luckily suffer from disturbances of heart or stom- 
ach, he begins to have certain signs of nervous ex- 

As a rule, one of two symptoms appears first, 
though sometimes both come together. Work gets to 
be a little less facile; this astonishes the subject, 
especially if he has been under high pressure and doing 
his tasks with that ease which comes of excitement. 
With this, or a little later, he discovers that he sleeps 
badly, and that the thoughts of the day infest his 
dreams, or so possess him as to make slumber difficult. 
Unrefreshed, he rises and plunges anew into the labor 
for which he is no longer competent. Let him stop 
here; he has had his warning. Day after day the work 
grows more trying, but the varied stimulants to ex- 
ertion come into play, the mind, aroused, forgets in 
the cares of the day the weariness of the night season ; 
and so, w T ith lessening power and growing burden, he 
pursues his purpose. At last come certain new symp- 
toms, such as giddiness, dimness of sight, neuralgia of 
the face or scalp, with entire nights of insomnia and 
growing difficulty in the use of the mental powers; 
so that to attempt a calculation, or any form of in- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

tellectual labor, is to insure a sense of distress in the 
head, or such absolute pain as proves how deeply the 
organs concerned have suffered. Even to read is 
sometimes almost impossible; and there still remains 
the perilous fact that under enough of moral stimulus 
the man may be able, for a few hours, to plunge into 
business cares, without such pain as completely to in- 
capacitate him for immediate activity. Night, how- 
ever, never fails to bring the punishment ; and at last 
the slightest prolonged exertion of mind becomes im- 
possible. In the worst cases the scalp itself grows sore, 
and a sudden jar hurts the brain, or seems to do so, 
while the mere act of stepping from a curbstone pro- 
duces positive pain. 

Strange as it may seem, much of all of this may 
happen to a man, and he may still struggle onward, ig- 
norant of the terrible demands he is making upon an 
exhausted brain. Usually, by this time he has sought 
advice, and, if his doctor be worthy of the title, has 
learned that while there are certain aids for his symp- 
toms in the shape of drugs, there is only one real rem- 
edy. Happy he if not too late in discovering that com- 
plete and prolonged cessation from work is the one 
thing needful. Xot a week of holiday, or a month, but 
probably a year or more of utter idleness may be ab- 
solutely essential. Only this will answer in cases so 
extreme as that I have tried to depict, and even this 
will not always insure a return to a state of active 
working health. 


Wear and Tear 

I am very far from conceding that the vehement 
energy with which we do our work is due altogether 
to greed. We probably idle less and play less than 
any other race, and the absence of national habits of 
sport, especially in the West, leaves the man of busi- 
ness with no inducement to abandon that unceasing 
labor in which at last he finds his sole pleasure. He 
does not ride, or shoot, or fish, or play any game but 
euchre. Business absorbs him utterly, and at last he 
finds neither time nor desire for books. The news- 
paper is his sole literature ; he has never had time to ac- 
quire a taste for any reading save his ledger. Honest 
friendship for books comes with youth or, as a rule, 
not at all. At last his hour of peril arrives. Then 
you may separate him from business, but you will find 
that to divorce his thoughts from it is impossible. The 
fend of work he raised no man can lay. As to foreign 
travel, it wearies him. He has not the culture which 
makes it available or pleasant. Notwithstanding the 
plasticity of the American, he is now without resources. 
What then to advise, I have asked myself countless 
times. Let him at least look to it that his boys go not 
the same evil road. The best business men are apt to 
think that their own successful careers represent the 
lives their children ought to follow, and that the four 
years of college spoil a lad for business. In reality 
these years, be they idle or well filled with work, give 
young men the custom of play, and surround them with 
an atmosphere of culture which leaves them with boun- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

tiful resources for hours of leisure, while they insure 
to them in these years of growth wholesome, unworried 
freedom from such business pressure as the successful 
parent is so apt to put on too youthful shoulders. 

Somewhat distracted by the desire to be brief, and 
yet to tell the whole story, I have sought, in what I 
fear is a very loose and disconnected way, to put in 
a new light some of the evils which are hurting the 
mothers of our race, and those which every day's ex- 
perience teaches the doctor are gravely affecting the 
working capacity of numberless men. I trust I have 
succeeded in satisfying my readers that we dwell in 
a climate where work of all kinds demands greater 
precautions as to health than is the case abroad. We 
cannot improve our climate, but it is quite possible that 
we have not sufficiently learned to modify the condi- 
tions of labor in accordance with those of the sky 
under which we live. 

No student of the nervous maladies of American 
men and women will think I have overdrawn any part 
of the foregoing sketch. It would have been as easy, 
had such a course been proper, to tell the individual 
stories of youth — vigorous, eager, making haste to 
be rich — wrecked and made unproductive and depend- 
ent for years or forever; and of middle age, unable 
or unwilling to pause in the career of dollar getting, 
crushed to earth in the hour of fruition, or made 
powerless to labor longer at any cost for those who 
were dearest. 


Nurse and Patient 

I once heard a doctor, well known in his day and 
skilled in the arts of curing, say that he feared the 
great mass of physicians, in their every-day familiarity 
with disease, did not fully feel how great a calamity 
in a healthy household is a case of grave illness. I 
have many times since then had occasion to appreciate 
the correctness and force of this remark, and am sure 
that I can do no better service than by preaching a 
little sermon on his brief text, and pointing out more 
at large what he meant, and how it is that the sickness 
of one in a house may become the fruitful source of 
mischief to others. 

I suppose that my friend, when he thus spoke, did 
not refer at all to the many little ailments of childhood, 
which to the young mother seem serious enough. The 
little aches, the so-called colds and the indigestions born 
of changes of diet, of teething, and what not, come and 
go, needing for the most part but slight medication, 
and far more often wise advice as to food, dress, tem- 
perature, and ventilation, with probably very little be- 
sides; the doctor's best function nowadays being in 


S. Weir Mitchell 

the mass of such cases to stand between the mother or 
nurse, naturally eager to do something, and the sick 
child, and to save the little one from that system of 
incessant dosing which at present is practiced chiefly 
by the homeopath — in a word, to put in a constant 
plea for sanitary wisdom in the nursery, and for that 
best of the herbs of the field called time. 

But there is in every community, both among chil- 
dren and adults, a vast list of cases of disease which 
are in their nature long and wearisome : fevers which 
endure for weeks; lung and heart maladies which 
through months or years lead slowly to death; cases 
of mental trouble ; and the sad catalogue of palsies and 
other maladies of the nervous system, many of them 
of great and uncertain duration. Let any one of these 
fall upon one of a household, and it is very apt to 
bring in its train certain incidental calamities which, 
as it seems to me, are to some extent avoidable or un- 
necessary. I should like briefly, but as forcibly as I 
can, to point out what these evils are, on whom they 
alight, and how best to avoid them. What I shall have 
to say will seem, I doubt not, very commonplace to 
my fellow practitioners, who are every day uttering 
like warnings in special cases ; but if there be any value 
in sermons, it is because they are preached to those 
not under the immediate influence of temptation, for 
which reason, perhaps, these words may be of more 
service than such as are spoken to people already 
pledged to some fixed course of hurtful action. 


Nurse and Patient 

Let us suppose that some one in a family group 
fails and sickens, until at last the doctor comes and 
makes his study of the case. Then follow perhaps a 
few days of anxious waiting, and we learn at length 
that the patient is ill of a low fever, most apt, in our 
latitudes, to be typhoid. These few days of doubt are 
very trying, not alone to those who await the medical 
verdict, but also to the doctor himself, who can very 
rarely know from the outset of the case precisely what 
form of evil he has to contend with. Many diseases 
begin with the same symptoms, just as many words 
begin with the same letters : each added letter helps us 
to identify the word, and each additional sign helps to 
indicate the malady, until doubt ripens to certainty, 
and we know at length what foe we have to deal with. 
Then the shadows begin to thicken with all the dreary 
accompaniments of illness, until by and by the first con- 
fusion disappears, and the steady order and discipline 
of the little hospital service of the sick room takes 
shape beneath the doctor's watchful eye. One of the 
earliest questions he has to settle is as to who shall 
nurse this patient — who in his absence is to be the 
hands, and at times the head, for in every fever case 
there should be one nurse, with such obedient assistants 
as she may need for relief and rest. In most cases, 
for various reasons, the nursing has to be done by 
members of the family. It seems to them horrible that 
a stranger or hireling should come in to take what 
they conceive to be their duties, or haply it is a mere 


S. Weir Mitchell 

question of means. Only too often some one female 
member of the household seizes on the work and de- 
votes herself to it, excluding all outside help, and only 
too often going through it with a splendidly absurd and 
reckless disregard of common sense. Or else, starting 
with the case, she gets upon her by degrees that strange 
feminine mood of sacrifice, and, conscious of her phys- 
ical inability, but urged by this insanity of loving, will 
go through with it, say what you will, protest as you 

Now, it seems a slight thing at first thought to take 
care for a few weeks of a sick person, but, apart from 
the night watchings which are so wearisome, the life 
has trials which sorely task the strongest, and the ef- 
fects of which are strangely sharpened owing to the 
nurse being tied by love bonds to the sick. Here are 
some weeks to be spent chiefly in a dim light, such as 
most patients like to have. There is the incessant 
watchfulness; the new and trying task of carefully 
noting the hours and seeing to the ordered sequence of 
medicines, stimulants, and food; the broken, irregular 
rest, and the undue and needless exactions which the 
patient will make upon a relative. With these comes 
also the entire change in habits of life, and a worrying 
sense of novel responsibility, which is intensified by the 
influence of affection ; so that every little decision which 
the nurse has to make becomes a trial of needless se- 
verity. I suspect that the average woman of the upper 
class would plunge into such a life with the utmost 


Nurse and Patient 

confidence in her capacity to narse, little imagining 
that, unless she is a most exceptional person, her very 
affection would be against her making a good nurse. 

There is, moreover, one physical disability which 
few people think of when assuming the care of a sick 
person. It is necessary again and again, in every grave 
case of illness, for the nurse to put forth all her 
strength at times in lifting or moving the sufferer. To 
do this well or with comfort to a patient is no easy 
thing for a strong man, because it requires him to 
bend over the bed in a posture which makes the effort 
to lift most trying. The consequences of such exertion 
to a woman, especially to one untrained in nursing and 
unused to its exactions, are such as may easily be 
imagined without further words from me. 

What you want in a sick room is a calm, steady 
discipline, existing but unfelt — the patient, cool con- 
trol which a stranger is far more apt to exercise than 
a relative. In a word, just as a doctor always feels it 
unwise to attend alone his own dear ones in grave ill- 
ness, for like but lesser reasons the best nurse is a 
stranger — one who is naturally free from worry and 
irritations, who is unmoved by traditions of love, and 
who, acting simply and purely from sense of duty, 
takes that care of her own health which is essential to 
make her nursing perfect. Such an attendant is will- 
ing to take her share of sleep and fresh air, and so 
remain cool and tranquil under all circumstances and 
in all exigencies, making far more light the task of the 


S. Weir Mitchell 

doctor, and able from experience of illness to note 
changes and call for aid at needed times. Such help 
excludes from a sick room that host of little annoyances 
for doctor and patient which I may call fuss. I have 
been astonished that in Miss Nightingale's book so 
little is said on this subject of amateur nursing and 
its evils; but certainly most doctors will agree with 
me that, save in the cases of infants, where the mother 
cannot and should not be displaced, the best nursing 
is paid nursing, and the worst very often that which 
comes from the family. But if the sentiment of a 
too tender self-devotion, when undertaking this task, 
be bad for the patient, it is still worse for the lov- 
ing nurse; so I feel that, despite what I have said just 
now, I may have failed to say forcibly enough how vast 
is the strain of such a task. Let any of my readers 
recall anew the intensity of interest, the anxious eager- 
ness with which they may have watched a very sick 
friend, wife, sister, or husband. Let them bring back 
the nervous terrors which grew upon them through the 
long hours of dreary waiting for the turn in the tide, 
and recall the enormous physical effort exacted, and 
they will perhaps come to understand me better. Such 
a situation brings to the nurse just that combination 
of anxiety with overwork which I have elsewhere de- 
scribed as apt in business men to bring about diseased 
states of brain ; nor does it fail of like effect in the 
nursing woman thus overtaxed. The patient dies or 
recovers, but leaves in many cases a sad legacy of 


Nurse and Patient 

broken health to the friend who watched and wept by 
the bedside. I have been amazed sometimes to see 
how brief a period of such work will entail, even in 
seemingly healthy people, weeks or months of intense 
prostration, or some long and mischievous train of 
puzzling nervous symptoms. Indeed, some of the most 
alarming and permanent breakdowns in (apparently) 
strong and vigorous women I have seen follow pro- 
longed efforts at nursing their friends, while it is at 
least far more rare to see like results among paid 

The analogy to which I have referred between the 
strain which sometimes falls on business men in time 
of panic or financial distress, and that which injures 
the unaccustomed and untrained nurse, is curiously 
complete. In both there is the combination of anxiety 
with overwork both physical and mental, and in both 
alike the hurtfulness of the trial is masked by the ex- 
citement which furnishes for a while the means for 
waging unequal battle, and prevents the sufferer from 
knowing or feeling the extent of the too constant effort 
he is making. This is one of the evils of all work 
done under moral stimulus, and when the excitation 
comes from the emotions the expenditure of nerve 
force becomes doubly dangerous, because in this case 
not only is the governing power taken away from the 
group of faculties which make up what w r e call com- 
mon sense, but also because in women overtaxing the 
emotional centers is apt to result in the development of 


S. Weir Mitchell 

that curious functional disorder which is known to 
the doctor as hysteria, and which is perhaps, when 
severe, one of the worst calamities that can fall upon 
a woman. 

It happens, for obvious reasons, that fever cases 
must sometimes be nursed by members of the family ; 
and when this is once decided upon, there are certain 
distinct and simple precautions against future trouble 
which it may be well to notice. One person, if possible 
a woman of middle age, should have the entire control 
of the sick room, and should receive the physician's 
orders, and direct such cares as must fall, or ought to 
fall, in part upon others. This arrangement, when 
clearly understood, at once ends a good deal of the 
fuss and disorder which come of too many heads, and 
puts the doctor far more at his ease. There is one 
person to look to, one responsible caretaker to whom 
he can turn, and who should always make out the 
written schedule of diet and medicines, and should be 
able to answer all his questions. It were best that such 
a person had her regular sleep, and that she confided 
to others the night watches, with such directing care as 
might be needed. Without a full share of sleep I do 
not think that anyone can preserve fully that measure 
of equanimity or freedom from irritability, that nor- 
mal tone of mind and body, which in such a long- 
continued strain is absolutely needed. Quite as im- 
portant is it that the nurse, and indeed everyone about 
a sick room, should be a part of the day out of doors, 


Nurse and Patient 

Nothing freshens a nurse like this, and without it she 
is unable to eat as she should do, and thus to supply 
to sorely taxed organs the nourishment they need ; for 
if anyone requires generous living, it is the watcher 
by a sick bed. We are met at this point by difficulties 
which inertness, sentiment, or selfish thoughtlessness 
make at times almost insurmountable. The indisposi- 
tion of our women to exercise is favored in such cases 
by unwillingness to seem even for a moment to desert 
a loved one, and by a morbid feeling that one ought 
not to be seen out of doors when those most dearly 
loved are in peril; while in some few cases the pa- 
tient's wishes are the greatest obstacle. It is easy, 
however, to overcome these little difficulties by choos- 
ing early morning or late evening hours for exercise, 
and by always telling the patient you are going, and 
punctually returning at the time you have set, so as to 
avoid for him those petty disappointments which want 
of such care brings to the morbidly irritable invalid. 
As regards paid nurses, the hindrance to needed fresh 
air comes from want of thought in their employers. 
It has happened again and again to every careful 
doctor to ask of the nurse, " When were you out of 
doors ? " and to learn from her reply that days or weeks 
may have slipped past without anyone's having had 
the humanity to take care that she should have a chance 
to breathe the fresh air of the streets. I have been 
many times amazed at the want of thought as to this 
matter on the part of even the kindliest women and 

1 54 

S. Weir Mitchell 

the most thoughtful physicians. If you want a good 
nurse, you must have a healthy nurse, and no human 
being can be caged in a sick room for weeks and still 
remain well; and if not well, your nurse is just a little 
irritable, somewhat less alert than common, or per- 
haps wearied into the carelessness that comes of such 

Thus far I have limited my remarks to the sub- 
ject of cases of acute illness, which, however trying, 
are more or less brief when compared to the maladies 
yet to be considered in their influence on attendants. 
There is in every community a certain proportion of 
sick persons who are chronic invalids, and who, from 
various causes, being closely confined to their rooms 
or beds, exact a vast amount of careful nursing. Such 
cases bring in their train to many households an 
amount of misery of which, at first thought, it is hard 
to conceive. Among these we find the sad catalogue 
of consumptives, paralytics, and the lesser nervous 
maladies, as the graver forms of hysteria and mental 
affections. Of course, in many wealthy houses the 
heaviest care of such cases is confided to good hired 
nurses, but very often this cannot be, or else the ex- 
actions of the patient and the self-devotion of love and 
kinship cast the entire weight of their care upon some 
single member of the family. A sister, aunt, or mother 
is gradually absorbed by the duties of the sick room 
until her life for years is passed in the gray monotony 
of some such self-imposed task. I do not say that 


Nurse and Patient 

this should not be — right-minded people cannot fly 
from obvious duty — but I do strongly feel that the 
complete sacrifice thus made is not always best for 
the invalid, and is full of peril for the attendant; and 
that even where most demanded it is capable of being 
so modified as to be better for the one and safer for 
the other. 

The evil begins in the curious selfishness which is apt 
to grow upon the chronic invalid, so as in many in- 
stances to make him or her more or less despotic in 
the household. Old invalids long and closely confined 
see their circle of enjoyments narrowing, and naturally 
shrink from the little social sacrifices of their personal 
wants which in common life every reasonable creature 
is continually making. They w r ant some one to talk 
to, to read to them, and make their meals cheerful — 
above all, to sympathize with them. Their senses be- 
come acute, sounds and bright light disturb them, af- 
fection bends to their least wish, and they grow into 
despots, and little by little lessen, through their wants 
and fears and sensitiveness, the liberty of a household 
and the happiness of others. They reason, if at all, 
on the slightness of the calls they make on others, 
forgetful of their number ; and thus, aided by the only 
too willing love about them, by degrees dominate a 
whole circle, and absorb, as it were, all the strength 
and sweetness of some one devoted life. It is easy for 
health and strength and love to bend and yield to 
pitiful weakness and pain, ever so easy for women 


S. Weir Mitchell 

to sacrifice self, until at last, as time runs on, every 
interest in life concentrates upon the patient and the 
sick room. With this come irregular habits of living, 
neglect of exercise, and broken health. By and by 
the nurse falls ill of some disease, and we wonder over 
her case, forgetting how thoroughly such an existence 
prepares the way for illness, and how sure it is to 
make the onslaught terrible. The life I have so 
briefly traced in outline may come to be far worse and 
far more hurtful in the presence of certain forms of 
sickness, because certain types of malady bring with 
them to the too closely confined nurse injurious con- 
sequences which do not depend alone upon the annoy- 
ances inseparable from the life of the sick room. 
Among the diseases which are in all probability hurtful 
to the nurse, or at least to the relative who acts as 
such, and is in constant contact with the patient, 
breathing his breath and sharing his room, is the too 
common sickness known as consumption. This mal- 
ady, which the sentimental novelist has taught the 
public to regard as a gentle fading away of the body 
without pain or distress, is usually one of the most 
distressing and horrible of the many modes of exit 
from this life. The tax it makes on the feelings and 
physical forces of the attendant is most severe, and 
is combined with a large addition of danger when the 
nurse, especially if of like blood with the sufferer, is 
closely confined to the sick room. There is indeed a 
belief universal among the people of some countries, 


Nurse and Patient 

and shared by many physicians, that consumption is 
capable of being directly communicated when the at- 
tendant is a wife, for example, and is thus more often 
and more nearly than another in the company of the 
invalid. I cannot pretend to settle positively the extent 
of this peril, but I feel confident that it would be unwise 
to shut up with a consumptive anyone of the same 
family, and that hereditary tendencies to the disease 
should make such caution much more imperative. 1 

A good deal of the happiness and health of the 
attendant relatives in any disease may depend upon the 
mode in which the character of the patient is modified 
and altered by years of pain and sick-room trials, and 
such changes in the patient are influenced perhaps in 
some degree by the nature of the malady. Chronic 
sickness ennobles a few and debases the many ; but as a 
rule long-continued or frequent and terrible pain is one 
of the most awful trials to which human nature can 
be exposed. We all see people who " suffer and are 
strong/' who in the midst of torture think more of 
others than of themselves, and who, like Robert Hall, 
live beautiful and useful lives while never free from 
pain ; but diseases in which, w T ith pain, there is also 
great waste of tissue are more trying than those which 

1 These sentences embodying the opinions and observations long 
held by thoughtful physicians, were written and published many years 
before the discoveries which have made certain the contagious character 
of consumption. This contagiousness, it should be added, probably 
needs two things to make it dangerous: first, prolonged close contact 
with the patient; and second, a suitable soil for its after-development. 

1 53 

S. Weir Mitchell 

involve only pain ; and under such influences the strong 
grow feeble of will, the bravest timid, the kindest irri- 
table, and the best of us selfish. 

During the Civil War many physicians had but 
too frequent chances of observing the sad effects of 
wasting maladies and painful suppurating wounds 
upon the character of men previously remarkable for 
hardihood and patient endurance. I had the sad op- 
portunity to see in the Hospital for Nervous Diseases, 
in Turner's Lane, Philadelphia, a vast collection of 
cases of horrible forms of neuralgia from wounds, and 
to notice how often some form of fearful anguish, long 
continued, would convert a gallant, vigorous soldier 
into a creature so irritable, timorous, and hysterical as 
to tax to the utmost the gentlest nurse and the most 
patient doctor. 

A life spent beside such a sick bed is indeed a test 
alike of character and of health. It requires a strong 
body and a fortunate balance of moral and intellectual 
qualities to escape from being made morbid by constant 
contact with such suffering; and intensely sympathetic 
people are surely hurt by it, and themselves grow mor- 
bidly sensitive. Where the unhappy invalid becomes 
exquisitely ill-tempered under the long pangs of illness, 
the constant nurse must endure a thousand petty trials 
of temper, and must know when to yield and when 
to resist the tiny and numberless oppressions of her 
sick tyrant. But incessant battle with oneself is ex- 
hausting, and soon begins to show its results upon the 


Nurse and Patient 

healthiest nurse cooped up in the sick room. A pallid 
face, loss of energy, a certain passive obedience to 
routine duties are the sure consequences. In many 
forms of nervous illness among women the love of 
rule becomes curiously developed, and with it grows 
up apace a strange craving for sympathy and the ex- 
pression of sympathy; and this peculiar mood of the 
sick room is especially hard upon the friend or relative 
who has been drawn into the maelstrom of monotonous 
duties, varied only by sudden and often vehement de- 
mands upon her emotions. If of the same blood and 
sex as the patient, and sharing in her constitutional 
peculiarities, the effects of such a life are only too easy 
to predict. 

But is there then no escape from these mischievous 
consequences? People will get ill, and remain ill. 
There are others whose plain duty lies in attendance 
on such victims of misfortune, and I should be the 
last to counsel anyone to shrink selfishly from clear, 
though sad and painful, obligations. I fancy that few 
cases of the kind I describe ever occur without sufficient 
protest and competent advice from the doctor. But the 
force of custom and the dread of ill-tempered remarks 
are commonly too much for him, and he is only 
listened to with respect, to be disobeyed with certainty, 
like many another preacher. 

As regards consumptives, of whom first I wrote, 
it is most desirable that as long as possible the nurse 
should sleep in an adjoining room within call, and 


S. Weir Mitchell 

never in the sick room ; most important that the cham- 
bers be well aired at all times, and that she should be, 
more than any other nurse, some hours of each day in 
the open air. The dangers of such cases are, however, 
better known and felt than are the more insidious evils 
of the other forms of disease to which I have drawn 
attention. Where the great misfortune of a chronic 
case of illness has fallen on a family, it is possible, 
when we have to deal with people of common sense and 
decision of character, to mitigate in some degree the 
essential evil of the situation. It were well in such 
cases to take care to distribute the burden, so that 
not on one person alone shall fall its entire weight. 
Usually, as I have said, some one relative gradually 
slips her shoulders more and more completely under 
it, until by mere force and duration of habit she be- 
comes uneasy and impatient when any effort is made 
to relieve her, and resents the effort as an interference 
with manifest duties. I have seen many young lives 
fade and sadden under such tasks, and have felt in- 
dignant that others should stand by and see in silence 
the mischief they wanted vigor or unselfishness to 

In some cases it is impossible to avoid consigning 
the case to a single relative, and when any one person 
thus deliberately or unconsciously passes into the slav- 
ery of the sick room, it is well that she should be made 
to feel how necessary it is for her to do everything 
to avoid the evils which such a life engenders. To 


Nurse and Patient 

insist upon a certain and ample share of freedom and 
time for pleasures and duties outside of the sick room, 
of fresh air and exercise, are simple acts of duty to 
herself, and, in a higher sense, to her patient. Apart 
from the physical ills of confinement and never-ending, 
monotonous duties, it is good for no one to be too 
constantly in the society of any one person, and least 
of all in that of one necessarily made more or less 
morbid by illness. Just as change of climate is essen- 
tial to bodily vigor, so change of moral climate is 
needful for health of mind, and the contact with a 
variety of people becomes of service to those who 
otherwise run the risk which comes of " set gray lives " 
and changeless days. 

There is another evil, already alluded to, which 
falls heavily on the sick nurse, and which is very diffi- 
cult to deal with. It arises from the self-concentration 
and growing selfishness which even the best of old 
invalids find hard to avoid, and which, especially if 
the sufferer be one in authority in the household, is 
sure to result by slow degrees in more or less inter- 
ference with the happiness of others, and especially of 
the younger members of the family. It is to be met 
only, as far as I can see, by a clear comprehension of 
just what is due to suffering and morbid wants and 
emotions, and by an early and decisive way of check- 
ing all unfair and unneeded encroachments. To yield 
in everything to a chronic invalid is in a manner easy, 
and this is some folks' fashion of dealing with chil- 


S. Weir Mitchell 

clren; but the final result is good neither for child nor 
for sick person, and, by enabling the latter to cultivate 
the resistible sources of annoyance and morbid emo- 
tions, is certain to result in enlarging for him by 
degrees the boundaries of misery. A little timely firm- 
ness from kind but steady-minded friends will do much 
to limit this cause of unhappiness to patient and at- 

I am tempted to add a few words as to the yet 
greater necessity of not spoiling children because of 
sickness. In acute illness it may be well very often to 
let them have in many things " their own way," as 
the saying is, but as regards young people sick with 
chronic maladies for years, and perhaps likely to be 
ill or crippled for life, there can be no more fatal mis- 
take. They, of all people, need to possess and to have 
aid in forming strong, self-sustaining characters — they, 
if any, are to be taught self-denial and restraint, unless 
we are willing to make them alike unhappy and the 
cause of unhappiness. 

With such precautions, and a firm resolve to keep 
in view the manifest duty of taking care of her own 
mental and physical health, it is altogether possible for 
a woman in fair health to take honest charge of a 
chronic invalid ; while without such determination the 
task I have described is most likely to end in making 
one invalid the more. Without proper management no 
one can endure such a life, and no physician who reads 
these pages but will be sure to recall only too many 


Nurse and Patient 

examples of lives laid down in needless sacrifice by 
those who too willingly yielded themselves up to the 
tyranny of the sick room. I have elsewhere quoted 
the trenchant phrase of Wendell Holmes, in which he 
describes a chronic invalid as a vampire sucking the 
blood of the healthy people of a household ; and strong 
as are his words, they do no more than briefly describe 
what really happens in many families. 

There is another form of disease of which as yet 
I have said nothing, but which is so surrounded with 
peril for the watching friends that I should have 
failed in my task did I not most earnestly warn my 
readers of its dangers. When a case of insanity in 
any of its many forms falls upon some one in a house- 
hold, certain questions at once present themselves which 
are closely connected with the subject of this brief 
paper. The physician is very soon called upon in 
these cases to decide whether the patient is in such a 
state as to make residence and treatment at home de- 
sirable, or whether recourse to an asvlum is best. 
There is a growing tendency in the minds of thought- 
ful alienists to believe that many instances of aber- 
ration or of melancholy are best cared for in the 
patients' own houses; and if the doctor so decides, 
or if, as often happens, some time must elapse before 
he can come to a decision, the question of attendance 
becomes at once of the gravest moment. As to this 
there should be not the slightest hesitation. In either 
of the cases stated there should be selected a careful 


S. We'ir Mitchell 

and kindly attendant, who, if possible, ought never 
to be a relation or friend. The reasons for this are 
absurdly clear to a doctor, and are briefly these : a 
stranger has control over cases such as no kinswoman 
can obtain, and. unmoved by too great sympathy or 
emotion, is far more able to carry out discreetly and 
firmly the needed measures of relief. Moreover, for 
moral treatment it is usually needful more or less to 
isolate such sick persons, while it is plainly undesirable 
and imprudent to expose other individuals of the same 
blood, and possibly of like tendencies, to the emotions 
and states of mind which close confinement with those 
they love, but who are thus disordered, are sure to 
bring about. Like other physicians who meet with 
cases of nervous disease, I have been often called upon 
to witness the wreck of mind and body which the effort 
to fulfill such a task has brought about. Indeed, I 
can think of nothing- more likelv to insure loss of 
health than an effort on the part of a young person, 
especially if a relative, to nurse the insane. Here, 
if in any case, are present in their worst forms all 
the evils which make attendance on the sick a trial of 
physical and mental health. The greater the love for 
the sufferer, the more unwise for both is the trial, the 
greater for the nurse is the strain. The incessant 
watching, the weary waiting in this most sad and 
uncertain of all maladies, the terrors as to what may 
happen in a disorder so changeful, the alternations of 
hopes and fears, and the agony of battle with aberra- 


Nurse and Patient 

tions and diseased opinions which it is vain to strive to 
change or influence, combine to torture the nursing 
friend ; while close confinement and the usual unavail- 
ing effort to conceal the nature of the case, and the 
morbid horror which this disease creates, all unite to 
make such attendance sadly dangerous for those near 
of blood. In fact, no one should be submitted to so 
terrible an ordeal ; and if it be impossible to create for 
a case of insanity an asylum within the house, with a 
paid attendant, then it is better, as soon as may be, 
to place the patient in some well-ordered hospital. The 
picture I have drawn is no sketch from fancy: many 
and many a life, and, worse than that, many a mind, 
has been wrecked in such service ; while, as I have said, 
and would like once more to urge as the best of all 
reasons, it is impossible to devise a better plan for 
insuring the continuance of a case of mental disease 
than keeping the patient in the constant company of 
one or more members of the same family. 

1 66 

Camp Cure x 

It is nowadays a common thing for city doctors to 
see numerous examples of overwork of body or mind, 
or of both at once; and if I was correct in the startling 
lesson I once drew from the death records of Chicago, 
there seems to be sad reason to believe that the nerve 
disorders which come of overwork, with worry, must 
surely multiply w r ith the growth of cities and the 
keener competitions which such growth insures. 

I am not now anxious to point out anew the de- 
fects in our modes both of work and play in America, 
but I am desirous once more of reasserting my strong 
and well-assured belief that, however evil may be these 
habits both for men and women, their peril gets a 
deadly emphasis from the character of the climatic con- 
ditions which surround us. Since my paper which ex- 
cited so much comment, and reopened the great ques- 
tion of sex in education, I have become daily more 
sure as to this matter of the relation of climate to all 
forms of labor. It will well repay a fuller and more 
scientific examination than anyone has hitherto given 

1 See also " Out-door and Camp-Life for Women," p. 70. — Editor. 


Camp Cure 

it, but at present I shall but pause to point out certain 
facts which bear upon the subject. 

All over America the time of most severe and 
steady labor in the great cities is from early autumn 
up to late spring. Of course I refer to the labor of 
professional men, merchants of all kinds, dealers in 
money, and manufacturers. It begins to relax late in 
the spring, and it is just in these spring months that 
our population feels the curious lowering of tone which 
most of us know so well, but as to which little or noth- 
ing is said in our books of medicine, though in older 
days it led to the endless doses and bleedings which 
were the spring fashion, and which yet linger in un- 
wholesome vigor in some country villages. This sense 
of weakness, this springtide indisposition to work, may 
be partly due to a malarious element which is present 
and in force over a large part of our country. It would 
be well worth some inquiry to learn if in countries to- 
tally free from ague poison the breaking up of winter 
weather be thus efficient to weaken. There must, how- 
ever, be other elements than malaria concerned — 
others that are widespread, too, and possess potent in- 
fluence over the nutritive changes of the human frame. 
At all events, in America, no one doubts the tendency 
of the general health standard to fall at the season 
named. Here, again, the immediately active causes, 
and the method of their effects, would repay more care- 
ful study. Mere feelings of weakness may be perhaps 
delusive, but I have in my possession some evidence 

1 68 

S. Weir Mitchell 

to show that in America — at least in Philadelphia, 
with cold winters and very hot summers — there is a 
yearly change in weight, the whole population begin- 
ning to lose flesh in spring, and continuing so to do 
as the summer advances, to regain the lost material 
in the cooler wintry days. There is, too, a curious 
piece of statistical evidence as to the depressing power 
of the spring months which has but lately come to 
light. Among the more frequent of the curable nerv- 
ous disorders is that known as chorea, and once as 
St. Vitus's dance. It is stated in the books to occur 
most often in winter, but the books were chiefly Eu- 
ropean or a closet hash of those, so that it need not 
surprise us to find them often wrong as to the habits 
of disease on this side the seas. A great number of 
choreal cases are subject to relapses, and from an ex- 
amination of the records of some years at my clinic 
it was found not only that the relapses occur in spring, 
but also that a vast proportion of the new cases take 
place at that season. 1 Since chorea is a disease hav- 
ing no relation to malaria, these facts become the more 
striking; and are the more so when we find that any 
enfeebling causes act to evolve this disease or aid to 
insure its recurrence. 

Thus it is that upon people whose nervous systems 
have passed through the wear and tear of the winter 
campaign of work and worry there comes first this 
curious spring influence, and then the moist heats of 

1 Article on Chorea, by Dr. Gerhard, in Philadelphia Medical Times. 


Camp Cure 

our summer suns. The work in this country has to be 
done, and whether it is done wisely or not, or whether 
the habits of the mass admit of its being wisely done, 
little concerns us here. It gets done, and the doing of 
it by summer time puts men in the way of needing a 
thorough renewal of overused tissues; for, although 
in theory Nature is supposed by her admirers to be 
steadily supplying fresh substance for that which we 
expend in thought, emotion, muscle or gland work, it 
does probably happen that in all men to a certain de- 
gree, and in some in larger measure, there are infinitely 
minute defects in these processes, or that the constancy 
of too great activity of mind and body does not always 
allow of perfection of repair. This is to be had by 
long rest and a healthful change for a time in the mode 
of living. The evil which was made by artificial ways 
of life is but awkwardly helped by urging tired nerve 
centers to their work with tonics or stimulants, and 
is rather, as I suppose, to be cured by a prompt re- 
versal of all our comfortable manners of eating, sleep- 
ing, and being housed. 

I do not presume that our naked ancestors, who 
made stone axes and slew their beasts in close battle, 
were on the whole as long lived as we, but they did 
not have overtasked nerves, and probably their women 
rejoiced not in hysteria. At all events they escaped 
some things which we owe to increasing needs and to 
the number of those who want and cannot get the 
same prizes. They fell wounded often, no doubt, in 


S. Weir Mitchell 

their fights for daily beef; we drop in the struggle for 
champagne and luxury. The injured stonecarver, 
used to outdoor life, would have died, snuffed out, 
in our best sick ward; while, on the other hand, he 
could have kept in cave, hut, or lake dwelling a most 
successful hospital for the man hurt in Wall Street or 
the overworked lawyer or merchant. 

The surest remedy for the ills of civilized life is 
to be found in some form of return to barbarism, and 
the common sense of the mass of people has taught 
them this; but they use the remedy in a weak form, 
and therefore fail of the larger good its ampler use 
might give. Tired men and women, fearful of sum- 
mer heats, make escape to the country and undergo 
prolonged cremation in boarding house or hotel. It is 
better than nothing, and some people like it, or say 
they do. But though our so-called country life secures 
fresher air, it insures a large supply of new irritations 
and annoyances, while for vast numbers of men it 
means uncomfortable nights in a suburb, hasty break- 
fasts, a daily railroad dusting, and the hot, long, weary 
day in town. It is better than to be in the city all the 
twenty-four hours, but while it may help, and cannot 
hurt, it is a life which will not act as a complete rem- 
edy for those who are at all seriously exhausted, or for 
such as are beginning to feel the first inroads of any 
of the many ways in which worried work torments us. 
One wants something more than a few days at dry 
Atlantic City or murky Cape May. One wants more 


Camp Cure 

than eight by ten to sleep in, and society of a kind one 
does not crave, and the delights of unlimited boarding- 
house gossip. Civilization has hurt — barbarism shall 
heal. In a word, my tired man, who cannot sleep, or 
who dreams stocks and dividends and awakens leg- 
heavy, and who has fifty other nameless symptoms, 
shall try a while the hospital of the stonecarver. He 
shall reverse the conditions of his life. Wont to live 
in a house, he shall sleep in a tent, or, despite his 
guide's advice, shall lie beneath " the moon's white 
benediction/' So shall he be in the open air all day 
and all night, for the tent is but a mere cover and wind- 
guard, or scarce that. He shall rise when he likes, un- 
stirred by imperious gongs ; but I think he will be apt 
to see the sun rise, and, honestly tired from travel or 
food-getting, will want to turn in at eight or nine. If 
too warm, he will take his coat off; if cold, to replace 
the demon furnace in the cellar, with its breath of 
baked air, he shall find warmth in the " ruby wealth 
of roaring logs " he has helped to chop and carry. 
The best part of his meals he shall earn by sweet 
labor with his rod or his gun. His shall be the daily 
plunge in lake or river, and the intense, eager hungri- 
ness which has no quarrel with the menu of wood or 
stream. The sleep that is dreamless, the keen senses, 
the Arab vigor that makes exercise a jest and the mind- 
less work of the camp a simple pleasure — all these are 
the reward which comes to a man who is living the 
outdoor life of the camp by silent lake or merry river, 


S. Weir Mitchell 

or far in the noiseless deeps of northern forests rich 
with scent of pine and the fragrant wood odors of the 
moldering logs of the windfall. 

This indeed is a true and potent alterative; and 
just what it is in detail — how full of harmless and 
health-giving enjoyments and of novel surprises — will 
bear a little comment. It is an odd thing at first to 
feel you are living out of doors with no builded home 
to sleep in; but this simple fact is full of value. In 
our common, everyday life of house and street we 
practically change our climate whenever we leave or 
enter a house, and from this, with overheating of our 
homes, come, I suspect, the many little colds and nasal 
catarrhs to which most of us are liable. The dweller 
in tents has no such annoyance, and far from the con- 
stant exposure giving rise to diseases of lung or throat, 
the outdoor life seems to be an almost absolute insur- 
ance against these. Yet the changes of temperature are 
often enormous, but as they are always natural, and 
unaccented by going into and out of houses, their lack 
of abruptness seems to deprive them of danger. On 
the northwest shore of Lake Superior the midday 
temperature in August was often yo° to 8o° F., 
and the minimum of the night 39 to 65 ° F. ; yet, as I 
remember, no one of a large party suffered in any way. 
Both on our seacoast and in Maine this is well under- 
stood, and is often practically applied; so that it is 
thought to be best for persons recovering from inflam- 
matory rheumatism to live on the sounds for a while 


Camp Cure 

or out in the woods, and as soon as possible to loosen 
the stiffened joints by handling an ax. 

Not only are well people better for such steady ex- 
posure, but cases of chronic throat trouble, catarrhal 
disorders, and chronic bronchitis rapidly disappear 
under the natural and mild treatment of what, for 
brevity, I have ventured to call the Camp Cure. I 
have more than once seen alarming coughs simply van- 
ish after a few nights in camp, while, on the other 
hand, it was a common thing among our men and offi- 
cers during the late war to find that a leave of absence 
and the exchange of tent life for house life frequently 
brought about colds or coughs. I well recall also a case 
of chronic loss of voice which for years had baffled 
many wise doctors and was perfectly and permanently 
cured by three weeks in camp on the Potomac. Dur- 
ing the war it was a subject of frequent surprise to 
civil surgeons to see how speedily wounds healed when 
men were living in tent hospitals, and how potent was 
their use in dispelling and checking the progress of 
that horror of all surgical horrors, hospital gangrene. 
I have several times had occasion to remark while in 
camp upon the same quick healing of wounds, and to 
see injuries which at home would have sent a man to 
bed get well without the slightest annoyance and with 
singular rapidity. The evils which are naturally 
dreaded as results of camp life have in reality no ex- 

Quite as sure is the relief from dyspeptic troubles; 


S. Weir Mitchell 

for although the diet of camps would be at home, for 
the dyspeptic, but a mode of tardy suicide, the steady, 
not too severe, exercise and the constant exposure rarely 
leave a man after a few days much fault to find with 
the most evil-disposed stomach. Among our lakes and 
streams the bill of fare of the camp is by no means a 
bad one, but it would be shocking at home. There is 
always fish fried, or broiled if you are wise; or per- 
haps, if you have a taste for delicacies and want the 
trout at its best, you will cook it in paper — when it is a 
thing to remember. Birds, especially ducks, are rarely 
lacking, and in the Adirondacks venison is abundant 
enough. Then it is easy to carry canned and dried 
vegetables, beans, potatoes, biscuits for bread, con- 
densed milk, and the inevitable pork. If I wanted a 
comparative test for the absence of dyspepsia, I should 
say that when a man can relish a bit of well-fried, 
crisp pork on top of a stew of ducks, and can wind 
up with a big onion eaten raw with salt, he might be 
regarded as tolerably competent to compete with the 
proverbial ostrich. I think it was that good fisherman, 
the late Dr. Bethune, who said that a good part of the 
value of wood life was in the fact that you crave onions 
and can eat them. In fact, there is always a row in 
camp when the onions give out, and the new men often 
wonder, at starting, why an old woodsman is so very 
particular about having plenty of onions ; but in the 
wilderness and in armies onions are at a premium. I re- 
member once, in paddling along the shores of a lake in 


Camp Cure 

Maine, we spied a log cabin in a rough clearing, and, 
pulling the canoes up, set off to see who was about,, 
with that odd craving for new faces which haunts 
men after a few days of lonely wood life. We found 
four children w T ith measles, the mother recovering from 
pneumonia, the father down with a lively chill im- 
ported from Illinois, and the grandfather with a dis- 
located finger. We soon put the last right, and then, 
drawing water cool from the spring, with a few lem- 
ons and white sugar we made them a drink which 
called down upon us unnumbered blessings. Next my 
little medicine case came into use for the first time in 
several summers; and so by and by, leaving them our 
remaining lemons — may I never do a deed of greater 
self-denial ! — we went away. As we were shoving off, 
the old man came down the hill and stopped us — 
guessed, as we were doctors, we ought to be paid. 
" Well," he said, " you done us a heap of good, and we 
was kind of mournsome before you come." I felt that 
the new word mournsome was worth many fees, and so- 
guessed, in reply, that we wouldn't take anything. 
" But maybe you'd have this," he urged with an air 
of triumph. " Them's what no man'll refuse " ; and so 
saying he threw into the canoe a rope of somewhat 
ancient onions. I accepted the honorarium, and we 
paddled away down the lake. 

The fare, then, need not be meager. As to drinks, 
I find that a very little liquor goes far, and is not much 
desired save by guides; and I know some of them who 


S. Weir Mitchell 

always refuse it when they are with a party. Tea and 
coffee are easily carried, but in the early morning a 
pint or so apiece of chocolate, made with condensed 
milk, is found to be the favorite breakfast draught. I 
do not advise anyone to venture it at home, but rich 
and hot — and how very hot it is ! — there is nothing 
better of a cool morning about 6 a.m. When coffee is 
used, it is a good way to boil it with the milk, without 
water; it makes a delicious variety, and was taught 
me by a Canadian trapper. At the risk of being tedious 
as to diet, I take from my notebook this bill of fare 
on the St. John's at the Rocks of the Virgin : Boiled 
and broiled salmon; trout in paper; fried potatoes; a 
stew of wild ducks with peas, and a can of beef soup 
to strengthen the potage; biscuits; baked beans; black 
coffee; and raw onions for salad. 

Most of us, however, seek the woods because of 
weary brains, and the contrast they give of a perfect 
simplicity in place of the multitudinous tasks of the 
city is the surest and the most permanent of cures for 
the evils which thus arise. In the woods, with good 
guides, there is nothing which you must do, and a vast 
deal involving gentle exercise which you may do or not 
as you choose. Our city life has become perplexing 
and trying by its intricacy : so many wheels must be 
kept moving in order to the fulfillment of social, do- 
mestic, civil, and professional duties that in the hurry 
of well-filled lives we are rarely at rest. I have heard a 
great savant complain of this ceaseless variety of de- 


Camp Cure 

mand, this intricacy of life, as the curse of London 
existence. Nor, with our habits of work, are we any 
more likely to escape from it than the Londoner. Out 
of this atmosphere of exaction and haste and endless 
perplexity, of oftentimes conflicting duties and obliga- 
tions, you pass into the quiet of woods remote from 
men, of streams and lakes scarcely troubled by com- 
merce. The peace of soul which falls upon you must 
have been felt to be duly valued, nor can anyone who 
has not known it conceive of the ease with which he 
forgets the cares and worries of the life he has left. 
The irritability and sense of strain alike fly swiftly 
aw r ay, and very soon he finds himself wondering over 
the remembrance of the petty cares, the jealousies and 
strifes of the city's battle for bread or name. I may be 
pardoned if I add that after one of those appalling and 
devastating sorrows which are sure to drop some day 
into every man's life, the flight to the open air and the 
close communion with Nature which it brings are full 
of healing. 

There is a strange charm for the dweller in town 
in living a while hand in hand with Nature all day 
long — in watching her gradual changes, the birth of 
morning, the sunrise newly dressed each day, the fad- 
ing twilight, the growth of storms, the loveliness of 
form and color in wood or wave — all delightful, and 
ever more so when the camp circle chances to possess 
an artist or two, and enough of science to weight the 
talk a little at times. It is well also to have always 


S. Weir Mitchell 

some little purpose in the woods besides mere pleasure. 
Some men like the gun and the rod. I prefer the 
latter, but I have friends who find unceasing pleasure 
in their pursuit of botany. Photography would be 
the best of wood pursuits if only it involved less cum- 
brous baggage; but for those who sketch, that is a 
surpassing gain. A book or two of geology is also 
desirable, and I have found it convenient and agree- 
able to carry in a small case a compass and barometer 
and a minimum thermometer, and, if possible, a simple 
microscope. All these little aids help to pass away the 
hours which nothing can make heavy or wearisome. 
I may add another hint : too few of us sketch, and, as 
I do not, I have always carried a notebook, in which 
I have found great delight, not merely in noting the 
day's pursuits, but in sketching with the pencil in words 
the scenes through which I have passed. It is a cap- 
ital exercise, and it is curious to see how, when you 
sit down and try to put in words just what you see 
before you, it fixes the landscape forever in your 

While speaking of men's w r ays in camp I should 
not neglect to say how much of its enjoyment comes 
of the contact with the guides, woodmen, and trappers, 
and the simple-minded, manly folk who live on the 
outposts of civilization — " the lords of the ax and the 
rifle. " One friend at least who may read this paper 
will recall our guide at the Pictured Rocks — a gnarled, 
rugged old fellow, by turns a lumberman on the wild 


Camp Cure 

Madawaska, a beaver hunter who believed in beavers 
more than in men, a sergeant in Berdan's Sharpshoot- 
ers, and now lake-sailor, guide, and hunter — a keen 
eye with the rifle, gallant and cool in storms on the 
lake, a capital cook, and endlessly merry and full of 
good talk over the camp fire at night. He will recall, 

too, Mr. S , our guide on the north shore, with 

his keen scent of the profitable pine tree, his amazing 
certainty as a wood guide, and his quaint tales of 
" finds " among the pine woods or of mineral wealth 
on the shores of lake and river. The forests of Maine 
are full of the finest specimens of such men ; nor do I 
know any better thing than to float down the lovely 
Allegash with Dan Kennedy, guide and woodman, in 
the stern of the canoe, and to hear with the plash of 
his paddle his clever chat of moose and bear and lum- 
bering and the ways of fish, and scornful talk of 
"Kanucks" and " Injins." 

As w r ell to say here that he who means to live a 
while in the woods will do well to be careful as to 
whom he chooses as a guide. In Maine especially the 
least exercise of caution or a little inquiry will insure 
a successful choice. As to companions, cheerful, pleas- 
ant, and unselfish, one can rarely go astray in choosing ; 
but since in many wood journeys the traveler's life is 
or may be in peril, or be put to great inconvenience 
and discomfort if he has not for guide an experienced 
person, too much care cannot be used. Some of my 
friends will recall how narrow an escape we once made 

1 80 

S. Weir Mitchell 

on Lake Superior, owing largely to an incompetent 
sailor; and on the other hand I remember with con- 
stant pleasure the dexterous and gallant fellows who 
have been with me again and again on the quick 
waters of the Allegash and the great St. John's. 

I do not wish or pretend to give directions as to 
the needed outfit for camp life, which may be better 
learned from any of the many books which describe the 
fishing in North America. There are, however, one or 
two things which, as a physician pointing out a too- 
little-used means of health-getting, I cannot afford to 
pass over, since in the books alluded to they are scarcely 
mentioned. As regards clothing, never go into the 
woods without flannel garments. It is well, no matter 
how cool it be, to partially undress at night, relying 
upon a rubber blanket beneath, and two good woolen 
blankets, one over and one under you, for warmth. A 
caoutchouc pillow is also a great gain, both as a head- 
rest at night and to sit on in the daytime, especially 
in a boat or canoe. It is well also to make it a rule 
of the party, no matter how cold be the water, to bathe 
daily. In fishing camps generally there is some neglect 
of cleanliness — the debris of meals left about and lack 
of care in daily airing the blankets. It is wise, there- 
fore, to shift the tents every three or four days to new 
ground — a precaution which is rarely used, and should 
never be neglected. 

My main purpose in this somewhat rambling paper 
is, however, to insist upon the great value to people in 


Camp Cure 

and out of health of the kind of life I have so hastily 
sketched. It will have some variety of charm for all 
men, and indeed for many women ; and while it will be 
fullest for those who are gifted with keen powers of 
observation, or who, as I have said before, can bring 
into it some special pursuit, I do not envy him who 
between a few good books, a pipe, and a friend, and 

Skies above with endless change, 
And woods below with joyous range, 

and the sights and sounds of outdoor life, cannot con- 
trive to pass away agreeably two or three summer 
weeks. Amid all the social pleasures of such a life 
I remember with most distinct gratification the social 
life of the camp, the evening chats about the camp 
fire, the jest and story, the trappers' tales, the laugh 
over improvised dishes, the ghostly splendor of light 
and shadow made by the fires, on which vast tree 
trunks were piled to warm and cheer us. I recall, too, 
most gratefully, how near this close intercourse has 
brought me to many good and kindly men, when the 
punch was brewed and the cheerful pipes glowed and 
faded by turns, like the gleam of revolving lights on 
some distant shore, seen and lost, as it were, now and 

The choice of a place in which to get one's summer 
" outing " is of course important. The Adirondack 
woods are probably the most available, as being easy 
of access, but of these I know personally but little. 


S. JFeir Mitchell 

They have been pretty fully advertised in a work of 
fiction by a reverend gentleman in Boston, who de- 
scribes trout as leaping some few feet out of water, and 
who shoots loons with a rifle from a rocking boat, in 
a thunderstorm, at night, by the lightning flashes. 
Yet the reality is pleasant enough, and there is room 
to get away from tourists and parasols. The woods 
of Maine are also easy of access, guides good, and the 
sport sufficient, especially anywhere about the shores of 
Moosehead Lake. For those who, like myself, prefer 
to wander, and not to camp steadily in any one place, 
there is a delicious journey which I have twice made, 
and which takes from two to three weeks. In the sum- 
mer of 1869, with one friend, each of us having a good 
birch canoe and a guide, I crossed the " carry " at the 
head of Moosehead Lake and launched the canoes on 
the Penobscot. At once we were in a wilderness which 
in winter is peopled well with hardy lumbermen. A 
few hours' paddling brought us to Chesuncook Lake, 
and then turning northward, past grim Katahdin, we 
went against stream through a series of lakes, con- 
nected by narrow waterways. A wearisome portage 
across the well-named " Mud Carry " led us over the 
low watershed of the Penobscot and St. John's into 
the tributaries of the latter stream. The current was 
then with us, and day after day we paddled through 
still lakes and waters until, emerging into the Allegash, 
we fled away swiftly down its brown-tinted waters. A 
more delicious panorama than its quick rapids and its 


Camp Cure 

overhanging, silent forests dwells nowhere in my mem- 
ory. The scenery was not abrupt until, a few miles 
above the mouth, we halted to carry around a charm- 
ing waterfall. A little farther, we floated out into the 
noble Aroostook or St. John's, w T hich gave us for days 
a splendid ever-shifting picture of hill and river — a 
river, too, so swift that it seemed to fall away from us 
like a sloped mirror. By and by farms appear, and you 
find yourself in the land of the poor and courteous 
Acadians, who were carried here when Evangeline 
went away to the South. At once you are in a for- 
eign country. You glide along past quaint, red-painted 
wooden churches, carved gables — the priest's house 
know r n by its chimney painted to imitate brick — odd 
little spires covered with zinc and gleaming in the sun, 
and graveyards thick with wooden crosses, against a 
somber background of rolling, leafy hillsides. French, 
the strangest of French, is the only tongue, but a kind- 
lier or better-mannered race than this, and a poorer, 
you must seek far to find. At the Grand Falls there 
is a cataract which drops into a slate chasm. The 
river, narrowed to a gorge, makes one fierce plunge, 
and then boils for miles down its narrowed valley. 
Just below the fall the gorge makes an abrupt turn, so 
that, standing below this splendid cascade, you seem 
to be caged in a vast gulf of splintered slate rocks piled 
on end. Excepting Niagara, I know of no cascade 
which approaches this in grandeur or savage grimness. 
At Frederickton you may take the steamer to St. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

John's, and thence to Portland, or cross from Wood- 
stock by rail to Bangor. The rapids are many on this 
route, but not dangerous, and the canoe after a day 
or two is the most pleasant of boats. The traveler sits 
on the smooth rounded bottom of his frail craft, and 
leaning back on a shingle, placed against one of the 
crosspieces which tie the sides of the canoe together, 
he reposes at ease, facing the bow of his boat, paddling 
or smoking, sleeping or reading, as suits his idle mood. 
There is one serious drawback in Maine and the 
provinces. Up to August the black fly reigns in su- 
premacy of torment, aided in his cheerful business by 
the " no-see-'um " or midge — the pungy of Pennsyl- 
vania — and the milder mosquito. The black fly rules 
the day, the mosquito prevails most at night, but is 
lively enough at all hours, while the midge is in force 
at dawn and twilight. There are those who despise 
the black fly and scorn the mosquito, but I know not 
the hero who can be a saint with the midge at his 
wicked worst. These creatures may have a useful al- 
terative value, and I suppose there is such a thing as 
getting used to the whole trio — indeed, it is said that 
the mosquito which bites a Jerseyman drops dead on 
the spot ; but I have heard the same thing said as to 
rattlesnakes, which seems improbable, so I vouch not 
for this — but I prefer the woods when the black fly, at 
least, has fled. The cool August nights usually dis- 
perse the midge also, but the mosquito is a power till 


Camp Cure 

On this account, and others, I like the shores of 
Lake Superior rather than the woods of the Northeast. 
I have camped year after year on the north shore of 
Lake Superior, and have never been annoyed by biting 
things after August loth, unless I had gone deep into 
the woods. Then the nights are cool or cold — the lake 
water so chilly as to range on the north shore from 
39° to 55 F., being therefore always pleasant to 
drink, and too cold for more than a plunge bath, 
followed by a shuddering escape. The scenery also is 
varied and grand, and the boat journeys may be easy 
and safe or venturesome and dangerous. Duluth is 
one good starting point, and the fisherman may find 
good sport within thirty miles up the shore in the little 
rivers which seek the lake. Sault Ste. Marie, where 
there is a good inn, the Chippewa House, is another 
pleasant point, whence within a few miles good fishing 
and camping grounds are found, with plenty of guides, 
canoes, and other means of outfit. For those who have 
more time and are fond of longer voyages the Nipigon 
River is an admirable resort, easily reached by the 
Canadian steamers which call at Sault Ste. Marie. 
There is one noble journey which I made once in the 
pleasantest of company, and which no one could re- 
gret to have made. We took a boat and guides at 
Fort William on the north shore, and spent two w T eeks 
in journeying to Duluth. Sailing ten or fifteen miles 
a day, we camped each night at the mouth of some 
one of the numberless streams which flow eastward to 

1 86 

S. Weir Mitchell 

the lake. Every one of them has cascades near the lake, 
and two of these — Temperance River (so called be- 
cause there is no bar at the mouth) and the River of 
the Evil Manitou — plunge almost into the lake. The 
lake walls are perilously bold, and sometimes offer no 
shelter for many miles, so that the utmost care is 
needed in watching the winds and waves. The scenery 
is superb. The basalt rocks of Thunder Bay, the Falls 
of La Crosse, Baptism and Pigeon rivers, the Pali- 
sades and the rocky islands, golden or silvered with 
orange or white lichens, and the wonderful water ef- 
fects and frequent mirage, are not to be matched else- 
where in America, and will repay, as I think, the grave 
danger of the voyage. 

I have especially dwelt on these two boat journeys, 
because they open to us scenery as yet accessible in no 
other way. The day will come when these picturesque 
shores of the great lake will be profaned by tourists, 
but as yet few civilized men have seen the lovely gorges 
of La Crosse, where the old bishop found shelter and 
erected the cross which gave it name, and has long 
since crumbled. Nor have many camped on the 
shelving beach where the River of the Evil Manitou 
has torn the lake wall asunder, and makes its plunge 
of sixty feet within fifty yards of the lake. 

There is another wonder of beauty on the south 
shore which lies between Sault and Marquette — say 
two days' sail from the latter town. Coasting along 
this singular coast line, known as the Pictured Rocks, 


Camp Cure 

in a steamer, I became so enamored of their romantic 
beauty that in August of the next year, with two 
friends, I sailed to them from Marquette. I should 
like to give the reader some idea of this coast, and 
without pretense of accuracy should wish him to be 
made to feel and to be tempted by the deliciousness of 
the week spent on Chapel Beach. Lacking the skill of 
the pencil, I have been, as I said, in the habit of 
taking sketches in words which, glanced at afterwards, 
swiftly recall the scene. Here is one such sketch but 
very little altered. The canoe lies a hundred yards 
off shore, silent, on a lake so still that the bowlders 
thirty feet below me show in every detail of silvery 
shadings. No sail in sight; time, 7 a.m.; the water 
at 68° F. — warmer here than on the north shore, 
but still so cool that the quick paddle after the bath 
and before breakfast is luxuriously warming. Before 
me a half mile of beach of a creamy pinkish hue, be- 
cause of quartz and red porphyry pebbles; back of it 
a bluff of sandy yellow and white, wonderful on top 
for gnarled trees, abused by lake storms, and for its 
many and delicious berries. On the upper beach slope 
below the bluff is the white tent, sole sign of man save 
the lovely blue inverted cone of dense smoke which 
floats up from the camp fire, where the kettle sings and 
the fish are frying. To the right, the strange Nubian 
profile which notches the vast angular rock, out of 
which, a little farther, is scooped the great arch of the 
Grand Portal. Thence a line of strange forms and 


S. Weir Mitchell 

lovely tints for miles. To my left, a cascade drops on 
the beach from the crumbled bluff, and beyond it rise 
vast stone pillars twenty feet above the lake, and over 
them a roof of stone, and on top of that forest trees 
— a strange Druidic temple, which came back into my 
memory when next I saw Stonehenge. Again to the 
left, rocks worn and water carved of old into strange 
semblance of tower and citadel and mosque and castle. 
For beauty and fantastic strangeness I know nothing 
like this picture, which can be seen only by one who 
is willing to live a while in boats and tents, for the 
sight as viewed from a steamer is somewhat disappoint- 
ing. To camp on this delicious beach and to float 
along the line of these amazing rocks, watching them 
in various lights, will give a man such a store of 
pictures as the richest gallery may envy. The rocks 
themselves are silvery gray, and are water-worn be- 
low into somber caverns full of rounded arches — arch 
within arch, beside which the water, crystal clear, casts 
up from its floor of white stones opalescent lights, 
while on the upper cliff line the chisel of time and 
weather has carved such strange confusion of archi- 
tecture that the fancy, free to range, finds no end of 
bold and marvelous buildings, beneath which glide rare 
waterfalls, and around which are " high-walled gar- 
dens green and old/' The colors which aid and flatter 
these delusions are due to the ores of iron, manganese, 
and copper, which, washed out by the rains, trickle 
through the many-leaved horizontal strata onto the face 


Camp Cure 

of the white cliffs, and so give us tints of yellow, 
brown, purple, green, and the hues which these divers 
comminglings afford. For a while I was puzzled at 
the frequent figure forms which occur everywhere on 
the more exposed and smoother rocks. One group was 
like a vast procession of bending, black-cloaked figures, 
before which went a headsman with his ax; they 
seemed to be walking over a vast ice slope, and the 
delusion was something bewildering in its complete- 
ness. In one of the caves were, as I remember, grim 
frescoes, all in shades of gray and black, of such vast 
wrestling figures with claw feet and hands as are fre- 
quent in Japanese pictures. The human figures are 
made in this wise : On some of the cliffs orange lichens 
abound, and where water oozes out in small amount 
between the strata the moisture, spreading as it slowly 
descends, is marked by a very black lichen, which 
fades below as the water dries, and thus affords the 
quaint figures of cloaked men so common on these 
singular rocks. 

Camp life, at least on this part of the south shore, 
depends for its zest solely on the scenery and the 
charm of air and water and sky, since the fishing 
amounts to but little along the line of the Pictured 
Rocks. But if a man desire to camp a while in Fairy- 
land, this will come near to satisfying the want. About 
halfway to Marquette, Grand Isle is also an attractive 
camp ground, and is full of queer and half-explored 
rock scenery. 


S. Weir Mitchell 

I have said nothing thus far of camp life nearer 
home, in Pennsylvania. It used to be good and pleas- 
ant in Elk and McKean counties, but the locomotive 
has gone long since through these woody solitudes, so 
that I do not know as much of them as I once did. 
Yet in many places throughout the Allegheny range 
and elsewhere there must still be wood and water where 
the tired dweller in towns may pitch his tent and lure 
the speckled trout, and learn the lore of woods, and 
taste the poetry and wholesomeness of the cure of 


Part III 



We beg to tender courteous acknowledgment to 
author and publisher for use of Stewart Edward 
White's essays, in Part III, from " The Forest " and 
" The Mountains/' both copyrighted, 1904, by Mc- 
Clure, Phillips & Company. 

Camping Comfort in the North Woods 

Wear Woolen Garments — A Sweater Indispensable — Other Things 
You Need — The Best Tent — Insect Pests and Dope — How 
to " Hike" — Carrying the Pack a Matter of Experience. 

You will want a hat, a good hat to turn rain, with 
a medium brim. If you are wise, you will get it too 
small for your head, and rip out the lining. The felt 
will cling tenaciously to your hair, so that you will 
find the snatches of the brush and the wind generally 

By way of undergarments wear woolen. Buy win- 
ter weights even for midsummer. In traveling with 
a pack a man is going to sweat in streams, no matter 
what he puts on or takes off, and the thick garment 
will be found no more oppressive than the thin. And 
then in the cool of the woods or of the evening he 
avoids a chill. And he can plunge into the coldest 
water with impunity, sure that ten minutes of the air 
will dry him fairly well. Until you have shivered in 
clammy cotton you cannot realize the importance of 
this point. Ten minutes of cotton underwear in cold 
water will chill. On the other hand, suitably clothed 
in wool, I have waded the ice water of North Country 


The North Woods 

streams, when the thermometer was so low I could see 
my breath in the air, without other discomfort than 
a cold ring around my legs to mark the surface of 
the water, and a slight numbness in my feet when I 
emerged. Therefore, even in hot weather, wear heavy 
wool. It is the most comfortable. Undoubtedly you 
will come to believe this only by experience, 

Do not carry a coat. This is another preconception 
of civilization, exceedingly difficult to get rid of. You 
will never wear it while packing. In a rain you will 
find that it wets through so promptly as to be of little 
use; or, if waterproof, the inside condensation will 
more than equal the rain water. In camp you will 
discard it because it will impede the swing of your 
arms. The end of that coat will be a brief half hour 
after supper, and a makeshift roll to serve as a pillow 
during the night. And for these a sweater is better 
in every way. 

In fact, if you feel you must possess another out- 
side garment, let it be an extra sweater. You can 
sleep in it, use it when your day garment is soaked, 
or even tie things in it as in a bag. It is not necessary, 

One good shirt is enough. When you wash it, 
substitute the sweater until it dries. In fact, by keep- 
ing the sweater always in your waterproof bag, you 
possess a dry garment to change into. Two hand- 
kerchiefs are enough. One should be of silk, for neck, 
head, or — in case of cramps or intense cold — the 


Stewart Edward White 

stomach) the other of colored cotton, for the pocket. 
Both can be quickly washed, and dried en route. Three 
pairs of heavy wool socks will be enough — one for 
wear, one for night, and one for extra. A second pair 
of drawers supplements the sweater when a temporary 
day change is desirable. Heavy kersey " driver's " 
trousers are the best. They are cheap, dry very 
quickly, and are not easily " picked out " by the brush. 
The best blanket is that made by the Hudson Bay 
Company for its servants — a " three-point " for sum- 
mer is heavy enough. The next best is our own gray 
army blanket. One of rubber should fold about it, 
and a pair of narrow buckle straps is handy to keep 
the bundle right and tight and waterproof. As for 
a tent, buy the smallest shelter you can get along with, 
have it made of balloon silk, well waterproofed, and 
supplement it with a duplicate tent of light cheese- 
cloth to suspend inside as a fly-proof defense. A 
seven-by-seven, three-man A-tent, which would weigh 
between twenty and thirty pounds if made of duck, 
means only about eight pounds constructed of this 
material. And it is waterproof. I own one which 
I have used for three seasons. It has been employed 
as tarpaulin, fly, even blanket, on a pinch; it has been 
packed through the roughest country; I have even 
pressed it into service as a sort of canoe lining; but 
it is still as good as ever. Such a tent sometimes 
condenses a little moisture in a cold rain, but it never 
" sprays " as does a duck shelter; it never leaks 


The North Woods 

simply because you have accidentally touched its under 
surface; and, best of all, it weighs no more after a 
rain than before it. This latter item is perhaps its 
best recommendation. The confronting with equa- 
nimity of a wet day's journey in the shower-bath brush 
of our Northern forests requires a degree of philosophy 
which a gratuitous ten pounds of soaked-up water 
sometimes most effectually breaks down. I know of 
but one place where such a tent can be bought. The 
address will be gladly sent to anyone practically in- 

As for the actual implements of the trade, they 
are not many, although of course the sporting goods 
stores are full of all sorts of " handy contrivances." 
A small ax — one of the pocket size will do, if you 
get the right shape and balance, although a light 
regulation ax is better; a thin-bladed sheath knife of 
the best steel; a pocket knife; a compass; a waterproof 
match safe ; fishing tackle ; firearms, and cooking uten- 
sils comprise the list. All others belong to permanent 
camps, or open-water cruises — not to " hikes " in the 

The items, with the exception of the last two, seem 
to explain themselves. During the summer months 
in the North Woods you will not need a rifle. Par- 
tridges, spruce hens, ptarmigan, rabbits, ducks, and 
geese are usually abundant enough to fill the provision 
list. For them, of course, a shotgun is the thing; 
but since such a weapon weighs many pounds, and 


Stewart Edward White 

its ammunition many more, I have come gradually to 
depend entirely on a pistol. The instrument is single 
shot, carries a six-inch barrel, is fitted with a special 
butt, and is built on the graceful lines of a 38-caliber 
Smith & Wesson revolver. Its cartridge is the 22 
long-rifle, a target size, that carries as accurately as 
you can hold for upward of a hundred yards. With 
it I have often killed a half dozen of partridges 
from the same tree. The ammunition is light. Al- 
together it is a most satisfactory, convenient, and 
accurate weapon, and quite adequate to all small game. 
In fact, an Indian named Tawabinisay, after seeing it 
perform, once borrowed it to kill a moose. 

" I shootum in eye," said he. 

By w r ay of cooking utensils, buy aluminum. It is 
expensive, but so light and so easily cleaned that it 
is well worth all you may have to pay. If you are 
alone, you will not want to carry much hardware. I 
made a twenty-day trip once with nothing but a tin cup 
and a frying pan. Dishes, pails, washbasins, and other 
receptacles can always be made of birch bark and cedar 
withes — by one who knows how. The ideal outfit for 
two or three is a cup, fork, and spoon apiece, one tea 
pail, two kettle pails, and a frying pan. The latter 
can be used as a bread oven. 

A few minor items, of practically no weight, sug- 
gest themselves — toilet requisites, fly dope, needle and 
thread, a cathartic, pain-killer, a roll of surgeon's band- 
age, pipe, and tobacco. But when the pack is made 


The North Woods 

up, and the duffel bag tied, you find that, while fitted 
for every emergency but that of catastrophe, you are 
prepared to " go light.'' 

The question of flies — using that, to a woodsman, 
eminently connotive word in its wide embracement of 
mosquitoes, sand flies, deer flies, black flies, and midges 
— is one much mooted in the craft. On no subject 
are more widely divergent ideas expressed. One writer 
claims that black flies' bites are but the temporary in- 
convenience of a pin prick ; another tells of boils lasting 
a week as the invariable result of their attentions; a 
third sweeps aside the whole question as unimportant, 
to concentrate his anathemas on the musical mosquito ; 
still a fourth descants on the maddening midge, and 
is prepared to defend his claims against the world. A 
like dogmatic partisanship obtains in the question of 
defenses. Each and every man possessed of a tongue 
wherewith to speak or a pen wherewith to write, 
heralds the particular merits of his own fly dope, head 
net, or mosquito-proof tent lining. Eager advocates 
of the advantages of pork fat, kerosene, pine tar, penny- 
royal, oil of cloves, castor oil, lollacapop, or a half 
hundred other concoctions will assure you, tears in eyes, 
that his is the only true faith. So many men, so many 
minds, until the theorist is confused into doing the 
most uncomfortable thing possible — that is, to learn 
by experience. 

As for the truth, it is at once in all of them and 
in none of them. The annoyance of after effects from 


Stewart Edward White 

a sting depends entirely on the individual's physical 
make-up. Some people are so poisoned by mosquito 
bites that three or four on the forehead suffice to close 
entirely the victim's eyes. On others they leave but 
a small red mark, without swelling. Black flies caused 
festering sores on one man I accompanied to the 
woods. In my own case they leave only a tiny blood 
spot the size of a pin head, which bothers me not a 
bit. Midges nearly drove crazy the same companion 
of mine, so that finally he jumped into the river, clothes 
and all, to get rid of them. Again, merely my own 
experience would lead me to regard them as a tre- 
mendous nuisance,, but one quite bearable. Indians 
are less susceptible than whites: nevertheless. I have 
seen them badly swelled behind the ears from the bites 
of the big hardwood mosquito. 

You can make up your mind to one thing — from 
the first warm weather until August you must expect 
to cope with insect pests. The black fly will keep you 
busy until late afternoon; the midges will swarm you 
about sunset ; and the mosquito will preserve the tra- 
dition after you have turned in. As for the deer fly, 
and others of his piratical breed, he will bite like a 
dog at any time. 

To me the most annoying species is the mosquito. 
The black fly is sometimes most industrious — I have 
seen trout fishermen come into camp with the blood 
literally streaming from their faces — but his great 
recommendation is that he holds still to be killed. No 


The North Woods 

frantic slaps, no waving of arms, no muffled curses. 
You just place your finger calmly and firmly on the 
spot. You get him every time. In this is great, heart- 
lifting joy. It may be unholy joy, perhaps even 
vengeful, but it leaves the spirit ecstatic. The satis- 
faction of murdering the beast that has had the nerve 
to light on you just as you are reeling in, almost coun- 
terbalances the pain of a sting. The midge, again — 
or punkie, or " no-see-um," just as you please — swarms 
down upon you suddenly and with commendable vigor, 
so that you feel as though red-hot pepper were being 
sprinkled on your bare skin; and his invisibility and 
intangibility are such that you can never tell whether 
you have killed him or not; but he doesn't last long, 
and dope routs him totally. Your mosquito, however, 
is such a deliberate brute. He has in him some of 
that divine fire which causes a dog to turn around 
nine times before lying down. 

Whether he is selecting or gloating I do not know, 
but I do maintain that the price of your life's blood 
is often not too great to pay for the cessation of that 

" Eet is not hees bite," said Billy, the half-breed, 
to me once, " eet is hees sing." 

I agree with Billy. One mosquito in a tent can 
keep you awake for hours. 

As to protection, it is varied enough in all con- 
science, and always theoretically perfect. A head net 
falling well down over your chest, or even tied under 


Stewart Edward White 

your armpits, is at once the simplest and most fal- 
lacious of these theories. It will keep vast numbers 
of flies out, to be sure. It will also keep the few 
adventurous discoverers in, where you can neither kill 
nor eject. Likewise, you are deprived of your pipe; 
and the common homely comfort of spitting on your 
bait is totally denied you. The landscape takes on the 
prismatic colors of refraction, so that, while you can 
easily make out red, white, and blue Chinese dragons 
and mythological monsters, vou are unable to discover 
the more welcome succulence, say, of a partridge on 
a limb. And the end of that head net is to be picked 
to holes by the brush, and finally to be snatched from 
you to sapling height, whence your pains will rescue 
it only in a useless condition. Probably then you will 
dance the war dance of exasperation on its dismem- 
bered remains. Still, there are times — in case of 
straight-away river paddling or open walking or 
lengthened waiting — when the net is a great comfort. 
And it is easily included in the pack. 

Next in order come the various " dopes." And 
they are various. From the stickiest, blackest pastes 
to the silkiest, suavest oils they range, through the 
grades of essence, salve, and cream. Every man has 
his own recipe — the infallible. As a general rule, it 
may be stated that the thicker kinds last longer and 
are generally more thoroughly effective, but the lighter 
are pleasanter to wear, though requiring more frequent 
application. At a pinch, ordinary pork fat is good. 


The North Woods 

The Indians often make temporary use of the broad 
caribou leaf, crushing it between their palms and rub- 
bing the juices on the skin. I know by experience 
that this is effective, but very transitory. It is, how- 
ever, a good thing to use when resting on the trail, 
for, by the grace of Providence, flies are rarely both- 
ersome as long as you are moving at a fair gait. 

This does not always hold good, however, any more 
than the best fly dope is always effective. I remem- 
ber most vividly the first day of a return journey from 
the shores of the Hudson Bay. The w r eather was 
rather oppressively close and overcast. We had pad- 
dled a few miles up river from the fur trading post, 
and then had landed in order to lighten the canoe 
for the ascent against the current. At that point the 
forest has already begun to dwindle toward the Land 
of Little Sticks, so that often miles and miles of open 
muskegs will intervene between groups of the stunted 
trees. Jim and I found ourselves a little over waist 
deep in luxuriant and tangled grasses that impeded 
and clogged our every footstep. Never shall I forget 
that country — its sad and lonely isolation, its dull 
lead sky, its silence, and the closeness of its stifling 
atmosphere — and never shall I see it otherwise than 
as in a dense brown haze, a haze composed of swarm- 
ing millions of mosquitoes. There is not the slightest 
exaggeration in the statement. At every step new 
multitudes rushed into our faces to join the old. At 
times Jim's back was so covered with them that they 


Stewart Edward White 

almost overlaid the color of the cloth. And as near as 
we could see, every square foot of the thousands of 
acres quartered its hordes. 

We doped liberally, but without the slightest ap- 
parent effect. Probably two million squeamish mos- 
quitoes were driven away by the disgust of our 
medicaments, but what good did that do us when eight 
million others were not so particular? At the last we 
hung bandannas under our hats, cut fans of leaves, and 
stumbled on through a most miserable day until we 
could build a smudge at evening. 

For smoke is usually a specific. Not always, how- 
ever — some midges seem to delight in it. The Indians 
make a tiny blaze of birch bark and pine twigs deep 
in a nest of grass and caribou leaves. When the flame 
is well started, they twist the growing vegetation, 
canopy-wise, above it. In that manner they gain a 
few minutes of dense, acrid smoke, which is enough 
for an Indian. A white man, however, needs some- 
thing more elaborate. 

The chief reason for your initial failure in making 
an effective smudge will be that you will not get your 
fire well started before piling on the damp smoke- 
material. It need not be a conflagration, but it should 
be bright and glowing, so that the punk birch or maple 
wood you add will not smother it entirely. After it 
is completed, you will not have to sit coughing in the 
thick of fumigation, as do many, but only to leeward 
and underneath. Your hat used as a fan will eddy 


The North Woods 

the smoke temporarily into desirable nooks and crev- 
ices. I have slept without annoyance on the Great 
Plains, where the mosquitoes seem to go in organized 
and predatory bands, merely by lying beneath a 
smudge that passed at least five feet above me. You 
will find the frying pan a handy brazier for the accom- 
modation of a movable smoke to be transported to 
the interior of the tent. And it does not in the least 
hurt the frying pan. These be hints, briefly spoken, 
out of which at times you may have to construct elab- 
orate campaigns. 

But you come to grapples in the defense of com- 
fort when night approaches. If you can eat and sleep 
well, you can stand almost any hardship. The night's 
rest is as carefully to be fore-assured as the food that 
sustains you. No precaution is too elaborate to cer- 
tify unbroken repose. 

By dark you will discover the peak of your tent 
to be liberally speckled with insects of all sorts. Es- 
pecially is this true of an evening that threatens rain. 
Your smudge pan may drive away the mosquitoes, but 
merely stupefies the other varieties. You are forced to 
the manipulation of a balsam fan. 

In your use of this simple implement you will be- 
tray the extent of your experience. Dick used at first 
to begin at the rear peak and brush as rapidly as 
possible toward the opening. The flies, thoroughly 
aroused, eddied about a few frantic moments, like 
leaves in an autumn wind, finally to settle close to 


Stewart Edward White 

the sod in the crannies between the tent wall and the 
ground. Then Dick would lie flat on his belly in 
order to brush with equal vigor at these new lurking 
places. The flies repeated the autumn-leaf effect, and 
returned to the rear peak. This was amusing to me 
and furnished the flies with healthful, appetizing exer- 
cise, but was bad for Dick's soul. After a time he 
discovered the only successful method is the gentle 
one. Then he began at the peak and brushed forward 
slowly, very, very slowly, so that the limited intellect 
of his visitors did not become confused. Thus when 
they arrived at the opening they saw it and used it, 
instead of searching frantically for corners in which 
to hide from apparently vengeful destruction. Then 
he would close his tent flap securely, and turn in at 
once. So he was able to sleep until earliest daylight. 
At that time the mosquitoes again found him out. 

Nine out of ten, perhaps ninety-nine out of a hun- 
dred, sleep in open tents. For absolute and perfect 
comfort proceed as follows : have your tentmaker 
sew you a tent of cheese cloth * with the same dimen- 
sions as your shelter, except that the walls should be 
loose and voluminous at the bottom. It should have 
no openings. Suspend this affair inside your tent by 
means of cords or tapes. Drop it about you. Spread 
it out. Lay rod cases, duffel bags, or rocks along its 

1 Do not allow yourself to be talked into substituting mosquito bar 
or bobinet. Any mesh coarser than cheese cloth will prove pregnable 
to the most enterprising of the smaller species. 


The North Woods 

lower edges to keep it spread. You will sleep beneath 
it like a child in winter. No driving out of reluctant 
flies; no enforced early rising; no danger of a single 
overlooked insect to make the midnight miserable. The 
cheese cloth weighs almost nothing, can be looped up 
out of the way in the daytime, admits the air readily. 
Nothing could fill the soul with more ecstatic satis- 
faction than to lie for a moment before going to sleep 
listening to a noise outside like an able-bodied sawmill 
that indicates the ping-gosh are abroad. 

The carrying we did with the universal tumpline. 
This is usually described as a strap passed about a 
pack and across the forehead of the bearer. The de- 
scription is incorrect. It passes across the top of the 
head. The weight should rest on the small of the 
back just above the hips, not on the broad of the back, 
as most beginners place it. Then the chin should be 
dropped, the body slanted sharply forward — and you 
may be able to stagger forty rods at your first attempt. 

Use soon accustoms you to carrying, however. 
The first time I ever did any packing I had a hard 
time stumbling a few hundred feet over a hill portage 
with just fifty pounds on my back. By the end of 
that same trip I could carry a hundred pounds and 
a lot of miscellaneous traps, like canoe poles and guns, 
without serious inconvenience and over a long port- 
age. This quickly gained power comes partly from a 
strengthening of the muscles of the neck, but more 
from a mastery of balance. A pack can twist you as 


Stewart Edward White 

suddenly and expertly on your back as the best of 
wrestlers. It has a head lock on you, and you have 
to go or break your neck. After a time you adjust 
your movements, just as after a time you can travel 
on snowshoes through heavy down timber without 
taking conscious thought as to the placing of your 

But at first packing is as near infernal punishment 
as merely mundane conditions can compass. Sixteen 
brand-new muscles ache, at first dully, then sharply, 
then intolerably, until it seems you cannot bear it an- 
other second. You are unable to keep your feet. A 
stagger means an effort at recovery, and an effort 
at recovery means that you trip when you place your 
feet, and that means, if you are lucky enough not to 
be thrown, an extra tweak for every one of the six- 
teen new muscles. At first you rest every time you 
feel tired. Then you begin to feel very tired every 
^fty feet. Then you have to do the best you can, and 
prove the pluck that is in you. 

Woods-walking differs as widely from ordinary 
walking as trap-shooting from field-shooting. A good 
pedestrian may tire very quickly in the forest. No 
two successive steps are of the same length; no two 
successive steps fall on the same quality of footing; 
no two successive steps are on the same level. Those 
three are the major elements of fatigue. Add, further, 
the facts that your way is continually obstructed both 
by real difficulties — such as trees, trunks, and rocks — 


The North Woods 

and lesser annoyances — such as branches, bushes, and 
even spider webs. These things all combine against 
endurance. The inexperienced does not know how to 
meet them with a minimum of effort. The tenderfoot 
is in a constant state of muscular and mental rigidity 
against a fall or a stumble or a cut across the face 
from some one of the infinitely numerous woods 
scourges. This rigidity speedily exhausts the vital 

It comes at the last to be entirely a matter of ex- 
perience. Any man can walk in the woods all day 
at some gait. But his speed will depend on his skill. 
It is exactly like making your way through heavy, dry 
sand. As long as you restrain yourself to a certain 
leisurely plodding, you get along without extraordi- 
nary effort, while even a slight increase of speed drags 
fiercely at your feet. So it is with the woods. As 
long as you walk slowly enough so that you can pick 
your footing, and lift aside easily the branches that 
menace your face, you will expend little nervous en- 
ergy. But the slightest pressing, the slightest inclina- 
tion to go beyond what may be called your physical 
foresight, lands you immediately in difficulties. You 
stumble, you break through the brush, you shut your 
eyes to avoid sharp switchings. The reservoir of your 
energy is open full cock. In about an hour you feel 
very, very tired. 

This principle holds rigidly true of everyone, from 
the softest tenderfoot to the expertest forest runner. 


Stewart Edward White 

For each there exists a normal rate of travel, beyond 
which are penalties. Only, the forest runner, by long 
use, has raised the exponent of his powers. Perhaps 
as a working hypothesis the following might be recom- 
mended : One good step is worth six stumbling steps; 
go only fast enough to assure that good one. 

You will learn besides a number of things, practi- 
cally, which memory cannot summon to order for 
instance here. " Brush slanted across your path is 
easier lifted over your head and dropped behind you 
than pushed aside," will do as an example. 

A good woods-walker progresses without apparent 
hurry. I have followed the disappearing back of 
Tawabinisay when, as my companion elegantly ex- 
pressed it, " if you stopped to spit, you got lost." 
Tawabinisay wandered through the forest, his hands 
in his pockets, humming a little Indian hymn. And 
we were breaking madly along behind him with the 
crashing of many timbers. 



In reply to inquiries as to necessary outfit for 
camping and woods traveling, the author furnishes the 
following lists : 

i. Provisions per man, one week 

7 lbs. flour; 5 lbs. pork; 1-5 lb. tea; 2 lbs. beans; 

1 1-2 lbs. sugar; 1 1-2 lbs. rice; 1 1-2 lbs. prunes and 
raisins; 1-10 lb. lard; 1 lb. oatmeal; baking powder; 
matches; soap; pepper; salt; 1-3 lb. tobacco. (Weight, 
a little over 20 lbs.) This will last much longer if you 
get game and fish. 

2. Pack one, or absolute necessities for hard trip 

Wear hat ; suit woolen underwear ; shirt ; trousers ; 
socks; silk handkerchief; cotton handkerchief; mocca- 

Carry sweater (3 lbs.) ; extra drawers (1 1-2 lbs.) ; 

2 extra pairs socks; gloves (buckskin) ; towel; 2 extra 
pairs moccasins ; surgeons' plaster ; laxative ; pistol and 
cartridges; fishing tackle; blanket (7 1-2 lbs.) ; rubber 
blanket (1 lb.) ; tent (8 lbs.) ; small ax (2 1-2 lbs.) ; 
knife; mosquito dope; compass; match box; tooth 


Stewart Edward White 

brush; comb; small whetstone. (Weight, about 25 
lbs.) 2 tin or aluminum pails; 1 frying pan; 1 cup; 1 
knife, fork, and spoon. (Weight, 4 lbs., if of alumi- 

Whole pack under 50 lbs. In case of two or more 
people, each pack would be lighter, as tent, tinware, 
etc., would do for both. 

3. Pack two — for luxuries and easy trips — extra to 

pack one 

More fishing tackle ; camera ; 1 more pair socks ; 1 
more suit underclothes; extra sweater; wading shoes 
of canvas ; large ax ; mosquito net ; mending materials ; 
kettle; candles; more cooking utensils; extra shirt; 



Camping Comfort in the Western Moun- 

The Needs of Mountain Travel — Equipment for Man and Horse — 
Provide for Extremes of Temperature — Be Prepared for 
Emergencies — Cultivate the Virtues of Independence and Self- 

As to outfit, certain especial conditions will differ- 
entiate your needs from those of forest and canoe 

You will in the changing altitudes be exposed to 
greater variations in temperature. At morning you 
may travel in the hot arid foothills; at noon you will 
be in the cool shades of the big pines; toward even- 
ing you may wallow through snowdrifts; and at dark 
you may camp where morning will show you icicles 
hanging from the brinks of little waterfalls. Behind 
your saddle you will want to carry a sweater, or, bet- 
ter still, a buckskin waistcoat. Your arms are never 
cold, anyway, and the pockets of such a waistcoat, 
made many and deep, are handy receptacles for smok- 
ables, matches, cartridges, and the like. For the night- 
time, when the cold creeps down from the high peaks, 
you should provide yourself with a suit of very heavy 
underwear and an extra sweater or a buckskin shirt. 


Stewart Edward White 

The latter is lighter, softer, and more impervious to the 
wind than the sweater. Here again I wish to place 
myself on record as opposed to a coat. It is a useless 
ornament, assumed but rarely, and then only as sub- 
stitute for a handier garment. 

Inasmuch as you will be a great deal called on 
to handle abrading and sometimes frozen ropes, you 
will want a pair of heavy buckskin gauntlets. An 
extra pair of stout high-laced boots with small Hun- 
garian hobnails will come handy. It is marvelous how 
quickly leather w r ears out in the downhill friction of 
granite and shale. I once found the heels of a new 
pair of shoes almost ground away by a single giant- 
strides descent of a steep, shale-covered, thirteen- 
thousand-foot mountain. Having no others, I patched 
them with hair-covered rawhide and a bit of horse- 
shoe. It sufficed, but was a long and disagreeable job 
which an extra pair would have obviated. 

Balsam is practically unknown in the high hills, 
and the rocks are especially hard. Therefore, you will 
take, in addition to your gray army blanket, a thick 
quilt or comforter to save your bones. This, with your 
saddle blankets and pads as foundation, should give 
you ease — if you are tough. Otherwise, take a second 

A tarpaulin of heavy canvas, 17x6 feet, goes 
under you, and can be, if necessary, drawn up to cover 
your head. We never used a tent. Since you do not 
have to pack your outfit on your own back, you can, 


The Western Mountains 

if you choose, include a small pillow. Your other 
personal belongings are those you would carry into 
the forest. I have elsewhere described what they 
should be. 

Now as to the equipment for your horses. 

The most important point for yourself is your rid- 
ing saddle. The cowboy or military style and seat are 
the only practicable ones. Perhaps of these tw r o the 
cowboy saddle is the better, for the simple reason that 
often in roping or leading a refractory horse the horn 
is a great help. For steep-trail work the double cinch 
is preferable to the single, as it need not be pulled so 
tight to hold the saddle in place. 

Your riding bridle you will make of an ordinary 
halter by riveting two snaps to the lower part of the 
headpiece just above the corners of the horse's mouth. 
These are snapped into the rings of the bit. At night 
you unsnap the bit, remove it and the reins, and leave 
the halter part on the horse. Each animal, riding and 
packing, has furthermore a short lead rope attached 
always to his halter ring. 

Of pack saddles the ordinary sawbuck tree is by all 
odds the best, provided it fits. It rarely does. If you 
can adjust the wood accurately to the anatomy of the 
individual horse, so that the side pieces bear evenly and 
smoothly without gouging the withers or chafing the 
back, you are possessed of the handiest machine made 
for the purpose. Should individual fitting prove im- 
practicable, get an old, low, California riding tree and 


Stewart Edward White 

have a blacksmith bolt an upright spike on the cantle. 
You can hang the loops of the kyacks or alforjas — 
the sacks slung on either side the horse — from the 
pommel and this iron spike. Whatever the saddle 
chosen, it should be supplied with breast straps, breech- 
ing, and two good cinches. 

The kyacks or alforjas just mentioned are made 
either of heavy canvas, or of rawhide shaped square 
and dried over boxes. After drying, the boxes are 
removed, leaving the stiff rawhide like small trunks 
open at the top. I prefer the canvas, for the reason 
that they can be folded and packed for railroad trans- 
portation. If a stiffer receptacle is wanted for mis- 
cellaneous loose small articles, you can insert a soap 
box inside the canvas. It cannot be denied that the 
rawhide will stand rougher usage. 

Probably the point now of greatest importance is 
that of saddle padding. A sore back is the easiest 
thing in the world to induce — three hours' chafing will 
turn the trick — and once it is done you are in trouble 
for a month. Xo precautions or pains are too great 
to take in assuring your pack animals against this. 
On a pinch you will give up cheerfully part of your 
bedding to the cause. However, two good quality 
woolen blankets properly and smoothly folded, a pad 
made of two ordinary collar pads sewed parallel by 
means of canvas strips in such a manner as to lie along 
both sides of the backbone, a well-fitted saddle, and 
care in packing will nearly always suffice. I have 


The Western Mountains 

gone months without having to doctor a single abra- 

You will furthermore want a pack cinch and a 
pack rope for each horse. The former are of canvas 
or webbing, provided with a ring at one end and a 
big bolted wooden hook at the other. The latter should 
be half-inch lines of good quality. Thirty-three feet 
is enough for packing only; but we usually bought 
them forty feet long, so they could be used also as 
picket ropes. Do not fail to include several extra. 
They are always fraying out, getting broken, being 
cut to free a fallen horse, or becoming lost. 

Besides the picket ropes, you will also provide for 
each horse a pair of strong hobbles. Take them to 
a harnessmaker and have him sew inside each ankle 
band a broad strip of soft wash-leather twice the width 
of the band. This will save much chafing. Some ad- 
vocate sheepskin with the wool on, but this I have 
found tends to soak up water or to freeze hard. At 
least two loud cowbells, with neck straps, are handy to 
assist you in locating whither the bunch may have 
strayed during the night. They should be hung on the 
loose horses most inclined to wander. 

Accidents are common in the hills. The repair kit 
is normally rather comprehensive. Buy a number of 
extra latigos, or cinch straps. Include many copper 
rivets of all sizes — they are the best quick-repair 
known for almost everything, from putting together 
a smashed pack saddle to cobbling a worn-out boot. 


Stewart Edward White 

Your horseshoeing outfit should be complete with par- 
ing knife, rasp, nail set, clippers, hammer, nails, and 
shoes. The latter will be the malleable soft iron, low- 
calked " Goodenough," which can be fitted cold. Pur- 
chase a dozen front shoes and a dozen and a half hind 
shoes. The latter wear out faster on the trail. A box 
or so of hobnails for your own boots, a waxed end 
and awl, a whetstone, a file, and a piece of buckskin 
for strings and patches complete the list. 

Thus equipped, with your grub supply, your cook- 
ing utensils, your personal effects, your rifle, and your 
fishing tackle, you should be able to go anywhere that 
man and horses can go, entirely self-reliant, inde- 
pendent of the towns. 


Camp Cookery 

The True Artist — Never Carry a Stove — How to Get Results — 
Cook-book Recipes Useless — A Man-made Cake — Bread 
Baked in a Kettle — A Camp Orgy, 

Now camp cooks are of two sorts. Anybody can 
with a little practice fry bacon, steak, or flapjacks, and 
boil coffee. The reduction of the raw material to its 
most obvious cooked result is within the reach of all 
but the most hopeless tenderfoot, who never knows 
the salt sack from the sugar sack. But your true 
artist at the business is he who can from six ingredi- 
ents, by permutation, combination, and the genius that 
is in him, turn out a full score of dishes. For simple 
example : Given, rice, oatmeal, and raisins. Your ex- 
pert accomplishes the following: 

Item — Boiled rice. 

Item — Boiled oatmeal. 

Item — Rice boiled until soft, then stiffened by the 
addition of quarter as much oatmeal. 

Item — Oatmeal in which is boiled almost to the 
dissolving point a third as much rice. 

These latter two dishes taste entirely unlike each 
other or their separate ingredients. They are more- 

over great in nutrition. 


Stewart Edward White 

Iteni — Boiled rice and raisins. 

Item — Dish number three with raisins. 

Item — Rice boiled with raisins, sugar sprinkled on 
top, and then baked. 

Item — Ditto with dish number three. 

All these are good — and different. 

Some people like to cook and have a natural knack 
for it. Others hate it. If you are one of the former, 
select a propitious moment to suggest that you will 
cook, if the rest will wash the dishes and supply the 
wood and water. Thus you will get first crack at the 
fire in the chill of morning; and at night you can 
squat on your heels doing light labor while the others 

In a mountain trip small stout bags for the pro- 
visions are necessary. They should be big enough to 
contain, say, five pounds of corn meal, and should tie 
firmly at the top. It will be absolutely labor lost for 
you to mark them on the outside, as the outside 
soon will become uniform in color with your marking. 
Tags might do, if occasionally renewed. But if you 
have the instinct, you will soon come to recognize 
the appearance of the different bags, as you recognize 
the features of your family. They should contain 
small quantities for immediate use of the provisions, 
the main stock of which is carried on another pack 
animal. One tin plate apiece and " one to grow on " : 
the same of tin cups : half a dozen spoons ; four knives 
and forks : a big spoon : two frying pans ; a broiler : a 


Camp Cookery 

coffee pot; a Dutch oven; and three light sheet-iron 
pails to nest in one another was what we carried on 
this trip. You see, we had horses. Of course in the 
woods that outfit would be materially reduced. 

For the same reason, since we had our carrying 
done for us, we took along two flat iron bars, about 
twenty-four inches in length. These, laid across two 
stones between which the fire had been built, we used 
to support our cooking utensils stovewise. I should 
never carry a stove. This arrangement is quite as 
effective, and possesses the added advantage that wood 
does not have to be cut for it of any definite length. 
Again, in the woods these iron bars would be a sense- 
less burden. But early you will learn that while it is 
foolish to carry a single ounce more than will pay 
in comfort or convenience for its own transportation, 
it is equally foolish to refuse the comforts or conven- 
iences that modified circumstance will permit you. To 
carry only a forest equipment with pack animals would 
be as silly as to carry only a pack-animal outfit on a 
Pullman car. Only look out that you do not reverse it. 

Even if you do not intend to wash dishes, bring 
along some " Gold Dust." It is much simpler in get- 
ting at odd corners of obstinate kettles than any soap. 
All you have to do is to boil some of it in that kettle, 
and the utensil is tamed at once. 

That's about all you, as expert cook, are going 
to need in the way of equipment. Now as to your 


Stewart Edward White 

There are a number of ways of building a cooking 
fire, but they share one first requisite : it should be 
small. A blaze will burn everything, including your 
hands and your temper. Two logs laid side by side 
and slanted toward each other so that small things can 
go on the narrow end and big things on the wide 
end; flat rocks arranged in the same manner; a nar- 
row trench in which the fire is built, and the flat irons 
just described — these are the best known methods. 
Use dry wood. Arrange to do your boiling first — in 
the flame; and your frying and broiling last — after 
the flames have died to coals. 

So much in general. You must remember that 
open-air cooking is in many things quite different 
from indoor cooking. You have different utensils, 
are exposed to varying temperatures, are limited in 
resources, and pursued by a necessity of haste. Pre- 
conceived notions must go by the board. You are 
after results; and if you get them, do not mind the 
feminines of your household lifting the hands of hor- 
ror over the unorthodox means. Mighty few women 
I have ever seen were good camp-fire cooks; not be- 
cause camp-fire cookery is especially difficult, but be- 
cause they are temperamentally incapable of ridding 
themselves of the notion that certain things should be 
done in a certain way, and because if an ingredient 
lacks, they cannot bring themselves to substitute an 
approximation. They would rather abandon the dish 
than do violence to the sacred art. 


Camp Cookery 

Most camp-cookery advice is quite useless for the 
same reason. I have seen many a recipe begin with 
the words : " Take the yolks of four eggs, half a cup 
of butter, and a cup of fresh milk — " As if anyone 
really camping in the wilderness ever had eggs, butter, 
and milk! 

Now here is something I cooked for this particu- 
lar celebration. Every woman to whom I have ever 
described it has informed me vehemently that it is 
not cake, and must be " horrid/' Perhaps it is not 
cake, but it looks yellow and light, and tastes like cake. 

First, I took two cups of flour, and a half cup of 
corn meal to make it look yellow. In this I mixed 
a lot of baking powder — about twice what one should 
use for bread — and topped off with a cup of sugar. 
The whole I mixed with w r ater into a light dough. 
Into the dough went raisins that had previously been 
boiled to swell them up. Thus was the cake mixed. 
Now I poured half the dough into the Dutch oven, 
sprinkled it with a good layer of sugar, cinnamon, and 
unboiled raisins; poured in the rest of the dough; re- 
peated the layer of sugar, cinnamon, and raisins, and 
baked in the Dutch oven. It was gorgeous, and we 
ate it at one fell swoop. 

While we are about it, we may as well work back- 
ward on this particular orgy by describing the rest 
of our dessert. In addition to the cake and some 
stewed apricots, I, as cook of the day, constructed also 
a pudding. 


Stevsart Edward White 

The basis was flour — two cups of it. Into this I 
dumped a handful of raisins, a tablespoonful of bak- 
ing powder, two of sugar, and about a pound of fat 
salt pork cut into little cubes. This I mixed up into 
a mess by means of a cup or so of water and a quan- 
tity of larrupy dope. 1 Then I dipped a flour sack in 
hot water, wrung it out, sprinkled it with dry flour, 
and half filled it with my pudding mixture. The whole 
outfit I boiled for two hours in a kettle. It, too, was 
good to the palate, and was even better sliced and fried 
the following morning. 

On this occasion we had deer, grouse, and ducks 
in the larder. The best way to treat them is as fol- 
lows. You may be sure we adopted the best way. 

When your deer is fresh you will enjoy greatly 
a dish of liver and bacon. Only, the liver you will 
discover to be a great deal tenderer and more deli- 
cate than any calf's liver you ever ate. There is this 
difference : a deer's liver should be parboiled in order 
to get rid of a green bitter scum that will rise to the 
surface and which you must skim off. 

Xext in order is the " back strap " and tender- 
loin, which is always tender, even when fresh. The 
hams should be kept at least five days. Deer steak, 
to my notion, is best broiled, though occasionally it is 
pleasant, by way of variety, to fry it. In that case 
a brown gravy is made by thoroughly heating flour 
in the grease, and then stirring in water. Deer steak 

i Camp lingo for any kind of syrup. 

Camp Cookery 

threaded on switches and " barbecued " over the coals 
is delicious. The outside will be a little blackened, but 
all the juices will be retained. To enjoy this to the 
utmost you should take it in your fingers and gnaw. 
The only permissible implement is your hunting knife. 
Do not forget to peel and char slightly the switches 
on which you thread the meat; otherwise they will 
impart their fresh-wood taste. 

By this time the ribs are in condition. Cut little 
slits between them, and through the slits thread in and 
out long strips of bacon. Cut other little gashes, and 
fill these gashes with onions chopped very fine. Sus- 
pend the ribs across two stones between which you 
have allowed a fire to die down to coals. 

There remain now the hams, shoulders, and heart. 
The two former furnish steaks. The latter you will 
make into a " bouillon" Here insert itself quite 
naturally the philosophy of boiling meat. It may be 
stated in a paragraph. 

If you want boiled meat, put it in hot water. That 
sets the juices. If you want soup, put it in cold water 
and bring to a boil. That sets free the juices. Re- 
member this. 

Now you start your bouillon cold. Into a kettle of 
water put your deer hearts, or your fish, a chunk of 
pork, and some salt. Bring to a boil. Next drop in 
quartered potatoes, several small whole onions, a half 
cupful of rice, a can of tomatoes — if you have any. 
Boil slowly for an hour or so — until things pierce 


Stezvart Edward White 

easily under the fork. Add several chunks of bread 
and a little flour for thickening. Boil down to about 
a chowder consistency, and serve hot. It is all you 
will need for that meal ; and you will eat of it until 
there is no more. 

I am supposing throughout that you know enough 
to use salt and pepper when needed. 

So much for your deer. The grouse you can split 
and fry; in which case the brown gravy described for 
the fried deer steak is just the thing. Or you can 
boil him. If you do that, put him into hot water, 
boil slowly, skim frequently, and add dumplings mixed 
of flour, baking powder, and a little lard. Or you 
can roast him in your Dutch oven with your ducks. 

Perhaps it might be well here to explain the Dutch 
oven. It is a heavy iron kettle with little legs and 
an iron cover. The theory of it is that coals go among 
the little legs and on top of the iron cover. This heats 
the inside, and so cooking results. That, you will 
observe, is the theory. 

In practice you will have to remember a good many 
things. In the first place, w f hile other affairs are pre- 
paring, lay the cover on the fire to heat it through ; 
but not on too hot a place nor too long, lest it warp 
and so fit loosely. Also, the oven itself is to be heated 
through, and well greased. Your first baking will un- 
doubtedly be burned on the bottom. It is almost im- 
possible without many trials to understand just how r 
little heat suffices underneath. Sometimes it seems 


Camp Cookery 

that the warmed earth where the fire has been is 
enough. And on top you do not want a bonfire. A 
nice even heat and patience are the proper ingredi- 
ents. Nor drop into the error of letting your bread 
chill, and so fall to unpalatable heaviness. Probably 
for some time you will alternate between the extremes 
of heavy crusts with doughy insides, and white, 
weighty boiler-plate, with no distinguishable crusts at 
all. Above all, do not lift the lid too often for the 
sake of taking a look. Have faith. 

There are other ways of baking bread. In the 
North Country forests, where you carry everything on 
your back, you will do it in the frying pan. The mix- 
ture should be a rather thick batter or a rather thin 
dough. It is turned into the frying pan and baked 
first on one side, then on the other, the pan being 
propped on edge facing the fire. The whole secret 
of success is first to set your pan horizontal and about 
three feet from the fire in order that the mixture may 
be thoroughly warmed — not heated — before the pan is 
propped on edge. Still another way of baking is in 
a reflector oven of tin. This is highly satisfactory, 
provided the oven is built on the scientific angles to 
throw the heat evenly on all parts of the bread pan and 
equally on top and bottom. It is not so easy as you 
might imagine to get a good one made. These re- 
flectors are all right for a permanent camp, but too 
fragile for transportation on pack animals. 

As for bread, try it unleavened once in a while, by 

Stewart Edward White 

way of change. It is really very good — just salt, wa- 
ter, flour, and a very little sugar. For those who like 
their bread " all crust/' it is especially toothsome. The 
usual camp bread that I have found the most success- 
ful has been in the proportion of two cups of flour to 
a teaspoonful of salt, one of sugar, and three of baking 
powder. Sugar or cinnamon sprinkled on top is some- 
times pleasant. Test by thrusting a splinter into the 
loaf. If dough adheres to the wood, the bread is not 
done. Biscuits are made by using twice as much 
baking powder and about two tablespoonfuls of lard 
for shortening. They bake much more quickly than 
the bread. Johnny-cake you mix of corn meal three 
cups, flour one cup, sugar four spoonfuls, salt one 
spoonful, baking powder four spoonfuls, and lard twice 
as much as for biscuits. It also is good, very good. 

The flapjack is first cousin to bread, very palatable, 
and extremely indigestible when made of flour, as is 
ordinarily done. However, the self-raising buckwheat 
flour makes an excellent flapjack, which is likewise 
good for your insides. The batter is rather thin, is 
poured into the piping-hot greased pan, " flipped/' 
when brown on one side, and eaten with larrupy dope 
or brown gravy. 

When you come to consider potatoes and beans and 
onions and such matters, remember one thing: that in 
the higher altitudes water boils at a low temperature, 
and that therefore you must not expect your boiled food 
to cook very rapidly. In fact, you'd better leave beans 


Camp Cookery 

at home. We did. Potatoes you can sometimes tease 
along by quartering them. 

Rolled oats are better than oatmeal. Put them in 
plenty of water and boil down to the desired consist- 
ency. In lack of cream, you will probably want it 
rather soft. 

Put your coffee into cold water, bring to a boil, let 
boil for about two minutes, and immediately set off. 
Settle by letting a half cup of cold w r ater flow slowly 
into the pot from the height of a foot or so. If your 
utensils are clean, you will surely have good coffee 
by this simple method. Of course you will never boil 
your tea. 

The sun was nearly down when we raised our long 
yell. The cow puncher promptly responded. We ate. 
Then we smoked. Then we basely left all our dishes 
until the morrow, and followed our cow puncher to 
his log cabin, where we were to spend the evening. 

By now it was dark, and a bitter cold swooped 
down from the mountains. We built a fire in a huge 
stone fireplace and sat around in the flickering light 
telling ghost stories to one another. The place was 
rudely furnished, with only a hard earthen floor, and 
chairs hewn by the ax. Rifles, spurs, bits, revolvers, 
branding irons in turn caught the light and vanished 
in the shadow. The skin of a bear looked at us from 
hollow eye sockets, in which there were no eyes. We 
talked of the Long Trail. Outside, the wind, rising, 
howled through the shakes of the roof. 


Household Note Book 

^^ v Write below your doctor's directions fot 

^l)ll^ltTlJl*£titJj£t diet, bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^* ^ Write below your doctor's directions fot 

Xlll^llXJCtir^tltlj^t ^ /<f ^ bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursings sick- room conduct, etc. 

^10. ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

'XA^ttt01*£tVtlJtt ^ /<f ^ bat/ii/ig, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^* v Write below your doctor's directions for 

'lii^lft0irttttU£l ( ^ et} l )at hi n g> application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^Ij. ,- Write beloiv your doctor's directions fot 

'T&^iiTlIl*Ct1 U£t c ^ ei} bathings application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-roo?n conduct, etc. 


^^ ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

iiiPlttOrctltUct d:et bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^t*tt' ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

'Tll^lltlJl^clitlJcl ^* e *> bathing, appIicatio?i of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^± <* Write below your doctor's directions for 

iH£ttt01Tcttt0£l diet} bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, ?iursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


jtMtk -^ Write below your doctor's directioiis fo? 

iltl^lltllir^lltljS diet, bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ ^ Write below your doctor s directions Jot 

il4£ttt01*ftltUct diet > bathin S> application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 

2 4 I 

_. v Write below your doctor's directions fot 

^llll^tft0irtttt<Dtt diet, bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^if- ^ Write below your doctor's directions fot 

i*tl^ltt0JrHtt-Dtl ^^ bathing) application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room condtut, etc. 


jO£ v Write below your doctor's directions fot 

iiltl^tttOt^Hltv^H c ^ et} bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^^ ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

'WlMJ [Xtir^mU^t ^* e * y bathing, application of do?nestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ ^ Write below your doctor's directions fot 

^XA^ttt01*ilttiJ£t c ^ et > bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^* v Write below your doctors directions fot 

iXl£Ht01*ClttUct diet) bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^^ ;-. Write below your doctor's directions fot 

ZXi^lltOl^ttltOct ^^ bathi?ig, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ ,- Write below your doctor's directions fot 

Tlfl^tlt0irHttUSl diet} bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


v^. ^ Write below your doctor's directions fot 

ZTil^lltllirclllIi^l ^^ bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^^ ^ Write beloiu your doctor's directions for 

2jl%l^lltjDfir&itU£t ^ eiy bathingy application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^rG+fr ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

^Id^iltXlir^ltlJil ^ ei > batJwig, application of domestic 

remedies ', nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^1^, ,- Write below your doctor's directio?is for 

ill ^lllll IT ctltlJct d* e *> bathing, applicatio?i of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^.^ - Write below your doctor's directions for 

iiil^lltllirclltiict ^* e *> bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^^ ^ Write below your doctor's directions fot 

'li^Jl t0X*CtttUtt ^ et) bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ ^ Write below your doctor's directions Jot 

^Ti^iltlll^ttllOil diet, bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ v Write below your doctor's directio?is fot 

ilAl^ttt0t*tlttflct ^ et > bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^^ ^ Write below your doctors directions fot 

'Xil^lltXll^clltlJcl ^* e *> & a ^i n gi application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^ia. <* Write below your doctor's directions for 

^lil0tttlIirttttU^t ^^ b atn i n g> application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^. ^ Write below your doctor's directions for 

ili^llt01TclttUH cii€t) bathing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc. 


^~ - Write below your doctor's directions for 

'lAlMI [XtlTctltJJtt ^ e t> bat/iing, application of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room co?iduct y etc. 


^^ ,- Write below your doctor's directions for 

ixT^tlTOt^Clttllct ^^ bathing, applicatio?i of domestic 

remedies, nursing, sick-room conduct, etc.